July 1999

I kept thinking he would come find me to apologize, but he didn't even lookTime flies. It has been quite awhile since I last wrote. We went to Grand Cayman again, but this time we took a commercial flight, since we had free tickets using airline miles. The fly-in was fun, but is kind of a “been there done that” thing now.

We also went to the Balsams resort in New Hampshire for vacation. We’d been there and done that before as well, but wanted to do it again. It is a major step up from our days of backpacking on the Maine and New Hampshire trails, peeing in the woods, and sleeping in tents. It was still an active trip; we went bike riding, kayaking, swimming, and golfing. The resort is all-inclusive and the food is absolutely incredible, which in retrospect, was both good and bad. Lou has become quite serious about bodybuilding, so meals are not straightforward. He is normally on a strict diet, with precise portions of exact foods. When he started working with his personal trainer, and was given a customized diet, I did immediately start buying the foods on the list and making them for dinner. But I wasn’t measuring out exact amounts for Lou to put on his plate, and I wasn’t preparing other meals in advance for him to have on hand. I assumed the diet plan was a guideline. Guess I figured wrong. Lou was frustrated because he wasn’t getting the results that he wanted, and blamed me for not supporting him. I asked what more he thought I should be doing. So, now I have a food scale, and a shopping list, a ton of plastic containers, a roll of masking tape, and a black magic marker. After work, I cook a fresh dinner, and plate his food measured out to the ounce. After we eat, I’m back in the kitchen to prepare and weigh out his multiple feedings for the next day, stored in containers labeled for each meal. If he’s traveling, I make up as many meals as possible for the week, he takes them with him in a cooler, and books a hotel room with a refrigerator and microwave. Hmmm, if he starts seeing results now, I wonder if I will get the credit like I took the blame? Doubt it. I’m getting used to the routine, but I am getting sick of chicken and broccoli and rice, and spinach though.

Anyway, for the most part, I eat what he eats for dinner, because I don’t want to make different meals. But the Balsams was a vacation, and I did not feel the need to adhere to his diet, even though he was still pretty much living “clean”. Anjelica liked eating with the kid’s camp group, so she was off with them, and Lou and I dined together. I should have joined Anjelica with the kids. Throughout the meal, he kept commenting on what was wrong with what everyone, including myself, was eating, despite that I chose mostly the same things he was having, with some exceptions. God forbid I should put a little butter and sour cream on my baked potato. He’d tell me how he “just can’t” do that any more.

The topper for me was when I got dessert. There was a huge buffet table with tons of decadent, delicious creations, and all I chose was a single brownie. I brought it back to the table, sat down, and took a bite from my fork. Lou pushed his chair back from the table in disgust, spewed out a proclamation that he could not stand to watch me eat that, got up, walked away, and left me sitting alone at our intimate table for two in the middle of the restaurant. I didn’t know what to do. As much as I love brownies, I didn’t want that one any more. My eyes welled up; I looked down in an attempt to hide my face so other people wouldn’t see I was crying as I left the dining room. I went for a walk and found a place to sit alone. I kept thinking he would come find me to apologize, but he didn’t even look. When I found him, the only statement with any resemblance to an apology was, “I’m sorry, but watching you eat that was actually making me sick, so I had to leave the room.”

Bottom line is that I decided that rather than being at odds with him and his diet, I would start working out and dieting seriously on my own as well. I’m not motivated to compete in a body building show like he is, so I’m doing the EAS Body For Life program instead. I also went to see his trainer to get a workout and diet routine for myself, and I’m combining that with the BFL program. I like the BFL plan because you get a “free day” every week, where you can have whatever you want to eat. I just won’t do that in front of Lou.

November 1998

I wonder, but don’t really want to know, because then I would need to act. Does that make me just as bad?I’m glad they know and like me at work. The local newspaper had a story on the front page about the conflict between Lou and our neighbors, and the charges of racism against him. Lou was thrilled about the article in the newspaper. I was mortified at the office, having everyone ask me about it, and having to defend his position.

We’ve been at odds with these neighbors since they moved in. The conflict itself is not because they are black; but because they are black, it has turned into a racial issue. They run a delivery service out of their house. I’m not sure what they deliver, but they make runs between the Washington DC area and New York City. Lou thinks that it is newspaper delivery service as a cover for running drugs. I don’t know, and frankly he doesn’t know either. What I do know is that around 3:00 am nightly, they are opening and slamming doors as they move boxes between vehicles and the house, and they have a variety of workers coming and going at all hours. We live at the end of a cul-de-sac, so you would think it would be easy to identify who does and doesn’t belong in the neighborhood from a safety standpoint, but there are constantly different people coming and going.

One day, I was doing work in our front yard and driveway, and there was a man apparently waiting for someone, leaning against a car in front of that neighbor’s house. I felt like he was staring at me, so I moved inside the garage. Lou asked what I was doing; I explained I was uncomfortable, and just wanted to move out of sight for a bit. Lou stalked down the driveway and yelled out, “Hey! What are you looking at?” He answered back, “Certainly not you”, with an emphasis on the word, “you.” Lou told him he should move on, the guy got in his car, and flipped Lou the bird while he drove away. Next thing we knew, there was a warrant out for Lou’s arrest for a racist hate crime. The owner of the house filed a complaint against Lou for harassment, and gave several examples, including flat out lies, claiming Lou had actually said, “What are you looking at, Nigger?” and that it was Lou who had given the visitor the finger. I saw and heard everything, and Lou did not call the guy a name at all. They also claimed that Lou is obviously a KKK supporter, and that he flaunts it by having Duke stickers on his car and wearing Duke clothing. They apparently think that the Duke logo refers to David Duke, rather than Duke University.

It didn’t become a black-white issue until the neighbors made it one. They couldn’t fathom that the controversy was all about the home-based delivery business. Now, it has morphed into a conflict between Lou and those black people who happen to have a delivery business. Lou thinks people like them are the reason that other people don’t like black neighbors. I argue that you can’t generalize like that. Lou is definitely prejudiced. He was brought up with the belief that black people are generally a certain way, and that the ones who are not are the exceptions. Not just blacks, but Jews, and Asians, and anyone who is different from him. I don’t sit by and let him make generalized offensive comments about people, so for the most part he has learned to keep his mouth shut around me, knowing that I’ll get disgusted by his attitude and disagree with him.

As far as the neighbor is concerned though, there is a real problem. Sometimes Lou pushes the conflict, and parks my car in front of their house just to bust balls and make it difficult. Then he gets mad at the other neighbors who don’t stand up against them as well. While Anjelica was with Lou, he got into a disagreement with the owner of the adjacent house, who didn’t think Lou should be stirring the pot by parking in front of the other house, which only made the delivery vans park in front of his home. Lou called the guy a spineless jellyfish for not challenging the delivery service neighbor, and for only being willing to speak up to Lou in front of Anjelica. Now I’m totally uncomfortable being in my own neighborhood.

One day, Lou was laughing while looking out our window, and pointed out to me that all of the tires in front of the delivery service house were flat. He had hinted to me once before when he had lost a lawsuit with someone that he was planning retaliation by punching a screwdriver into the other party’s car tires. I told him back then not to do it, and that revenge wasn’t going to change anything or make it better. I always wondered if he did it anyway. And I wonder about the neighbor’s tires.

Like with so many things, I wonder, but don’t really want to know, because then I would need to act. Does that make me just as bad?

June 1998

there's something fundamental about places and people you knew well a long time ago that brings you right back

there’s something fundamental about places and people you knew well a long time ago that brings you right back

We flew to Grand Cayman in our Trinidad as part of a pilot’s association event called the Cayman Caravan. It was a fun, and very long, plane ride; Anjelica was great through the whole thing. We carry a lot of things for her to do, so she is either busy or napping, and hardly ever complains. We first flew into to Key West, where all the pilots met up, had special training classes, and got the emergency gear (like a raft) that you need to fly long distance over open water. Then they team you up with a small group of planes with a certain take off time, and you keep an eye on each other while you fly. The part everyone gets nervous about is flying over Cuba, as if they expect to be shot down as a spy plane or something. But as long as the Cubans know you are coming and you have the clearance, you’re not going to have any problems. Seeing Cuba from the air brought back a lot of memories to me of being there with the Soviet Cruise Ship. We used to dock in Grand Cayman every cruise, also. So I reminisced a lot inside my head. So much has changed, but there’s something fundamental about places and people you knew well a long time ago that brings you right back, no matter how different things appear to be.

We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary while there, also. We had booked our hotel at a place we had a great experience with in the past. But this year, a new addition was under construction, and it was noisy and dusty everywhere we turned. After a very heated debate with the hotel manager, who did not intend to let us out of our guaranteed reservation, we moved to another hotel, which was calm, peaceful, and absolutely beautiful. It was much more expensive, but the peace and serenity were well worth it. I agreed with Lou that it wasn’t right for guests to pay full price for a hotel expecting it to be just as advertised, only to arrive and find most of the property is a hardhat zone.

Once the hotel situation was worked out, we had a wonderful, albeit quiet vacation. We left the hotel once to go sightseeing; both Lou and Anjelica were whiny and irritable the whole time, and I gave up on the notion of walking around town. Turns out that Anjelica probably had a legit excuse for being cranky, because she was sick the next day. Lou and I had booked a scuba dive outing and she was signed up for hotel kid’s camp. At breakfast, she didn’t eat, and said she wasn’t feeling well; Lou volunteered to stay with her and let me dive on my own. The poor kid threw up multiple times and never once made it to the bathroom. Lou called housekeeping, and tipped them generously for each extra clean up. It would not have occurred to me to call anyone to clean for me. Then again, the housekeepers may have been less tolerant of a mother who called to ask for someone else to clean up her kid’s vomit.

I felt a little guilty about not being there for Anjelica, but I had a blissful, fantastic day of diving on my own. A few weeks prior to the trip, Lou and I wrangled a combination of private and group classes and pool work in Delaware crammed into a tight schedule so we could finish off our certification in Grand Cayman. Since our arrival, we had already done that final open water dive test, as well as a recreational dive. Learning to dive has been on my wish list since I was 16, so it has been a dream come true, and I’m thrilled that Lou wanted to do it with me. The pool training and bookwork were easy for both of us, but in the open water, we learned Lou has some issues, although everything was fine and easy for me. His dive mask never sealed well, he had trouble setting his buoyancy correctly, he struggled with claustrophobia at depths of more than 30 feet, and his feet hurt to the extent that he needed socks under the fins. He also was a bit unlucky with leaky rental equipment on the last dive; I had plenty of air, and was able to give him my extra regulator and resurface together safely. There’s good reason for diving with a buddy and following proper procedures. Based on his somewhat rocky start to diving earlier in the week, he was content to skip the dive and let me go on my own. Honestly, although it is fun to dive together, it was nice to go on my own and not have to deal with any of those issues.

Despite the minor issues, the overall vacation was wonderful. The flight back was nerve-wracking. We traveled from Grand Cayman, over Cuba and to Key West fine, and it was uncongested getting through customs, because Lou was able to finagle the group schedule to get us a very early takeoff time from Cayman. He took a catnap, while I flew a good part of the leg up from Florida. I can fly, navigate, and communicate with air traffic control just fine. It’s the takeoff and landing that require the most skills, and particularly maneuvering near airports where there are other many planes to keep track of. That intimidates me. Anyway I was doing the easy stuff while he napped, because he really wanted to be able to get home in one day. While he was sleeping, I flew over an active wild fire in Florida. Looking at it from the air, I got a new perspective on how much damage fire causes.

We landed in North Carolina to refuel and get something to eat. On the weather channel playing at the FBO terminal for private aircraft, we could see there were huge storms brewing between NC and home; I really wanted to stay put and wait for the weather to clear out; Lou really wanted to go home. So we went home. It’s really hard at night to visually discern how far away lightning is, because it all looks close. We have a storm scope in the plane, so we can identify the lightning strikes, and more importantly, where the big cells of storms are located based on the clusters of lightning strikes on the scope. We were in the Virginia / Maryland area, when the scope really lit up. Lou was working with air traffic control to try to find the best route around the storms, but the options were dwindling. The controller tried to get us to fly east, but Lou didn’t want us to get stranded over open water with no place to land, and in this type of dire situation, the pilot ultimately determines what to do. We ended up being essentially trapped, surrounded by a bunch of large cells in every direction. With no airport at which to land, we could only fly around in circles for a while, until finally, a small hole opened up that we could escape through. I kept quiet through it all, but I was really scared, and wished that we had stayed over in North Carolina and flown home the next day. Lou, on the other hand, felt he demonstrated that he was completely right, and that the air traffic controller’s advice would have no doubt caused us to crash into the sea. I didn’t bother sharing my view that the better decision would have been to stay put until the storm passed, and never have been in that situation at all.

May 1998 – II

one of these days my stew pot of issues will probably boil over and create quite the messThe weather was beautiful for my dad’s wake and funeral. I should have had beautiful days honoring him, too, but I didn’t. I am so sad, but it is not because my father is dead. I feel drained of everything inside. I am mad at so many people, even though I’m not an angry person by nature… I’m really not.

Lou actually told me to ask my mother to change the dates of the wake and funeral to accommodate his planned business trip to Rochester to meet a potential new client and speak at a dinner meeting. I told him that was absurd, and that his plans were not that important. The day of my dad’s wake, Lou conceded at the last minute to skip the plant tour he had scheduled with an alleged potential new client, but did not cancel the dinner meeting. He made it quite clear that he had only cancelled to shut me up, not because he wanted to be by my side, or perhaps pay his respects to my father, who had always been kind and loving to Lou. I checked his laptop, and read the e-mail that he sent to a woman named Jean, explaining he had to cancel their planned flight rendezvous over and around Niagara Falls because, “There has been a death in the family, and I’m under a lot of pressure to attend the funeral.” Part of me feels this is a victory for me, and another part doesn’t want him to be anywhere near my father’s presence, given the lack of respect he has demonstrated. My husband is supposed to be a source of strength and comfort in times like these. These are the moments in life when it helps to be reminded of what you still have with family, and to be grateful for that love rather than only reeling from the loss of the person who has died. Instead, I just feel empty.

Lou was present for literally about 10 minutes of the wake before he left for Rochester in our plane. To make matters worse, he abruptly took Anjelica with him. That morning, my sisters and I had been cleaning at my mother’s house, and Anjelica wanted to help. So my sister gave Anjelica a sponge to wipe off a kitchen countertop. Lou saw this, grabbed the sponge away, scrubbed her hands, and marched her out of the house. He pulled me aside and fumed about how disgusting it was that my sister gave her a filthy, gross sponge. There was no way his daughter was going to be cleaning. I explained that it was a normal dish sponge from the sink, that it was not gross and disgusting by any means, and that it was natural that Anjelica would want to help out with what my sisters and I were doing. I didn’t see anything wrong. She helps me at home, as best as a 4 year old can, and at the Montessori school, the kids clean up after themselves. I can easily read his face, and could see he was outraged more by my defense of the situation than he was by the sponge and cleaning offense itself.

We went for a walk and took Anjelica to the playground at my old elementary school so we could get away from the house and have what was probably a very obvious argument in private. It quickly turned from a discussion about the sponge, into a lecture to me about how this was an unsuitable environment for Anjelica, and that he was going to take her with him to Rochester, and she could just hang out while he did his APICS dinner meeting presentation. I pleaded for him to let Anjelica stay with me, but I was worn out and beaten down, so he won that battle. I could clearly envision him using Anjelica to his benefit to look like a Super-Dad, doing his job while caring for his daughter because his wife was too busy or unable. Part of me was a bit satisfied to know this meant he hadn’t been able to re-arrange things to hook up with that woman, or anyone else at the hotel after the dinner meeting. Another part of me was reliving that he had also taken Anjelica away from me when Aunt Mamie died. And both times, I felt like I was being punished for something, and that I didn’t understand what I had possibly done to deserve such treatment. I don’t ask for much, and there are very few times when I really need to be with my family. I don’t think I am unreasonable to expect his support on the rare occasions when I do.

Even with Lou out of sight in Rochester, I was on edge most of the time; so many things irritated me, especially small actions and comments that I interpreted as disrespect. I did my best to hold my composure, as I had to speak publically for the eulogy, which was videotaped to be shown on Cable TV, and there was a rather odd public display with news reporters and police escorts following our family as we walked in a procession behind a horse drawn carriage-hearse from the funeral home to the cemetery. When my mother made those plans, I was not there to object and present my father’s request for a simple ceremony. But at that point, it probably more about what she wanted anyway.

I took so many deep breaths to try to calm myself down over those two days, that it is a miracle I didn’t hyperventilate. I know my mother wanted peace, so I was determined to create no issues. That’s not entirely true. I created a shitload of issues in my head; I just didn’t share them with anyone. I stewed on them all by myself, and they continue to simmer and percolate. One of these days my stew pot of issues will probably boil over and create quite the mess.

May 1998

sawpeopleLou and Anjelica and I were heading to Schenectady anyway, because there was a fraternity event at Union college that Lou wanted to attend. When I called my parent’s house, one of my sisters told me that she thought my dad wasn’t going to live much longer. She had asked him if he wanted a priest to come to give him last rites, but he declined.

I had been up to visit about a week earlier, and saw he was getting weaker and weaker by the day, and had found eating to be more of a chore than a pleasure. But he had a craving for French Onion soup, in particular, a dish just like one he frequently spoke of that he thoroughly enjoyed in a very fine restaurant many years ago. My mom had been trying a variety of soups, but none came close to the ideal taste of his memories, and he simply didn’t want to eat them. I was determined to make the best French Onion soup possible from scratch. I cooked it at their house and described to him step by step what I was doing. I made a bunch of it; he had some that day, and said it was perfect. I don’t know if he was just being nice to me because he saw all the work I put into it, or if he really liked it, but he did voraciously eat it all up. My mom said he finished up the leftovers during the week, too. He never ate anything else before he died. They say soup is a comfort food. My hope is that it gave him some. Preparing it, and knowing that he enjoyed it, and even ate every last drop, gave me tremendous comfort as well.

When we arrived at the house that day, I saw that over just a matter of days he had withered away and was dramatically thin and dehydrated. His skin was tight against his bones, as if a vampire had drained all his bodily fluids, and his lips were cracked and dry. He could still speak, but only a few very soft words at a time with great effort, but he was clean and well cared for, and being kept comfortable. I sat in a chair facing him in bed, and held his hand all day and night, only breaking my grasp for brief breaks to go pee, eat or drink. At one point, Lou came to visit and stood by his bed, held his other hand, and thanked him for giving him such a wonderful daughter, and told my dad that he was a great father to me. My dad squeezed both our hands and nodded. Lou and Anjelica checked into the Glen Sanders Mansion hotel near the bridge from Scotia to Schenectady, and went to the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity function together. I think Anjelica is the only female or non-Fiji to ever go to the Fiji Pig Dinner. I didn’t want to leave my parent’s house to stay with Anjelica while he went to the event, and we both agreed it would not be good to have her with me given my father’s condition. As far as I know, nobody objected to Anjelica attending the fraternity event given the circumstances.   I considered most of the brothers from Lou’s college years to be my close friends as well, so I felt confident that she was with an extension of our family.

I spent most of the day and night sitting with my dad, holding his hand, and reading to him. I showed him pictures and read newspaper articles from old scrapbooks from the days of cruise travel and his publicity stunt tricks, and magic conventions. It was mellow and peaceful. He drifted in and out of sleep. One time after waking, he looked intently toward the wall, and told me he saw people at the foot of his bed. I couldn’t figure out whom he felt he saw to know exactly what to say, so I just tried to assure him that everything was all right, and never disputed what he was seeing. He was a little frustrated that I couldn’t explain who they were, but he soon relaxed, and was less concerned.

Not all my sisters are close with my dad, but everyone was there, and they were each doing the best they could and to be supportive to my mother. It was stressful at times, and I struggled to tolerate the buzz of everyday life activities, televisions and conversations going on around us while I tried to maintain a peaceful serene environment with my father in the family dining room’s makeshift hospice setting.

Everyone went to bed, except my sister who has been caring for him, and me. My dad was having a lot of trouble breathing. My sister called Hospice support a few times for advice. My dad knew he could have morphine whenever he wanted, and eventually asked for some. A while after receiving the dosage, finally looking much more comfortable, he asked why it was taking so long. I guess he thought it was like taking a dose of arsenic or hemlock that would end his life, not just ease his pain. He seemed a bit disappointed to still be alive. A little after midnight, he was struggling to breathe, and had a lot of congestion in his lungs. I woke my mom other sisters so they could also be with him, since our instinct was that he was going to die very soon. On the directive of the hospice nurse advising us over the phone, my sisters and I carefully turned him on his side, which seemed to alleviate his immediate discomfort. In hindsight, I also think the change in position actually makes the fluid in the patient’s lungs move in a way that brings death sooner than it would if a person continued to lay flat and torturously struggle with the rattling, labored breathing.

After we turned him on his side, I laid down next to him over the sheets in his hospital bed, hugging and spooning with him from behind. My mom knelt on the floor beside his head, gently stroked his hair and face, held his hand, and told him that he was the love of her life, and said that we were all by his side, and it was alright for him to let go. And he did. He died three months to the day after receiving his terminal cancer diagnosis.

I stayed in bed spooned with him for a long time after he passed. Eventually people from the funeral home arrived with a gurney to take him away. I wasn’t deliriously being a freak; I just wanted to continue giving him love, uninterrupted by the practicalities and business of dealing with his death until it was necessary to let go. There would be plenty of time for that. This was the last bit of myself I could give him. As he transitioned, I wanted him to know he was loved. If that’s weird, so be it.

After the funeral home took his body away and I saw my mom off to sleep, I drove to the hotel and got in bed with Lou, and told him my father had died. He said he was sorry, then he told me about a noise issue he had with the hotel from a nearby wedding party, then I spooned behind him until I finally fell asleep.

The next day, we went to my mom’s house to help reorganize the furniture and convert the downstairs from a medical facility back to a home. She wanted to open up the house to sunlight by taking down the many layers of plastic and curtains that had been installed long ago to insulate the windows. Light was literally brought back into the house after years of being sealed up by my father in the name of energy conservation. She even hung some art on the walls using nails. The irony was that pounding nails into the walls would be something my dad would say would only happen “over my dead body.” There ya go. She wanted and needed to do some of those trivial things that she had always wanted but didn’t consider worth an argument. Now, she can make her own choices. But, she also now realizes that she will be living alone for the very first time in her 70 years of life. Now, she has to make her own choices.

April 1998

I believe there can be no sin in loveI talk to my dad a lot now. I can’t make him well, I can’t ease his physical pain, but when I asked myself what I can do, I realized that all he really ever wanted was for people to listen. So we talk on the phone, and we chat on AOL Instant Messenger. He tends to monopolize the phone conversations, but I type faster than he does, so I get to do a little more “talking” than he does online.

I regret that in the past, talking to him often felt like a chore I avoided. His speech was always slow and deliberate, and the most simple concepts were over-explained in excruciating detail. The same stories were retold time and again, and it seemed he never paused long enough for me to comment or politely work into the conversation a tidbit that made it obvious I had heard it all before. If anyone interrupted his monolog with an interjection, he took offense, and acted socially injured by being shut down and cut off mid-sentence. But now, given that his remaining time on Earth is so short, something has changed. I am more patient and interested, and he has become more socially aware and generally more interesting. We converse about so much in life, both philosophical and historical topics. We talk about life in the present and past, including some very personal matters and decisions he and my mother made because they loved each other so much, but that other people did not agree with and did not understand, and the impact those choices made. We talk about death as well. He’s not really afraid of dying, but is thinking a lot about whether he’ll be judged for having committed sin when he and my mother had an affair while they were both married to other people. I told him that I believe there can be no sin in love. I know they truly love each other, and they love all their daughters. I don’t believe in a punishing God. I strongly believe in love; my parents brought me up to try to do the right things, and treat other people well. My mother taught me to be optimistic and believe in the good of others. I believe if there were a “judging” God, he would clearly see that my dad loved my mother and my sisters and me, and he has already forgiven the mistakes made, and the hurt that was unintentionally caused as a result.

One thing I learned from those conversations was that because of his age, he didn’t really want to have that fourth child…me. My mother insisted and ultimately convinced him. He did say he was later glad they had me, but I don’t know how long it took for him to come to that conclusion.

My sister has taken a leave of absence from work to help my mother take care of him. Hospice care comes to the house, but it isn’t easy for my mom, and it’s getting harder and harder for my dad to get around. Taking a bath is a major event now. I am grateful for my sister to be there to take care of them both.

Last time I was up for a visit, my father pulled me aside to go through some business. He went over their financial documentation, and said he felt he had saved enough over the years that combined with social security income, with their house already paid off, my mother should be in good financial shape for the rest of her life. He asked me to help her to make the money last. I said I would do what I could to support her, but that I was sure she’d want to make her own decisions. He also confided that since she was still young, it would be fine with him if she met and married another man. Although he was quite serious, I had to laugh a little, and told him I didn’t think it would be the first thing on her list of things to do, but that when the time was right, I would definitely let her know how he felt about it. He talked about his funeral, too, and said he didn’t want anything fancy. I explained that we would all want to honor him. Bottom line was that he felt people spend too much money on funerals in general. Most important, he didn’t want to be a part of any of the decision-making, and didn’t want to know any of the details. I can’t say I blame him for not wanting to be able to envision his own funeral. As much as I didn’t want to talk about all these end of life things with him, or with anyone for that matter, I knew that it was important to him, and it eased his mind.

He has been selling a lot of his magic collection, but gave me a crystal ball that I had told him I had always been fascinated by since I was little. It was the only material thing that I wanted.

February 1998 – Part II

talkedwithoutemotionI called my mom from my office to see how my father’s doctor’s appointment went. I wasn’t prepared to hear that my dad has cancer again. This time, it’s in his liver, and there isn’t anything they can do about it. My mom told me the news and we talked through the details without emotion, as if she were describing the storyline twist in a book she had read. I hung up the phone and went back to working at my desk. But the tears came anyway, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop crying.

My parents had put so many plans on hold these past several years to stay close to home for my grandmother’s sake. Now that she had passed, they planned to travel to China, Alaska, Hawaii, and so many other places they haven’t yet been. My mom didn’t give me the prognosis, but I looked up information on the internet, and based on what she described about his cancer, my dad probably has 3 months to live. My heart is breaking, but I have to be stronger than this. Lou says he’ll take me to see them whenever I want.

February 1998

I didn't make the emergency deathwatch road trip to say goodbyeGram died. We just returned from New York for her funeral. I feel bad about the fact that I didn’t see her in the nursing home recently. Last time I talked to her, I was calling to say I was coming to visit, but I never actually went. She had not been doing well, and had pretty much summoned her family to say goodbye. My mom had explained to me that Gram had been on a recent steep decline with some sort of blockage in her system, and that she was almost black in color, which was hard to imagine, because she was typically fair-skinned with round pink cheeks, her face shape matching her short, apple figure.

I had wanted to visit, but our airplane was in the shop, so Lou couldn’t fly me up, and he insisted that I not drive. Despite the fact that she was 90, he assumed it was just a false alarm, and that my family was over-reacting about her condition. So, I called her to at least be able to talk, and she was told me how badly she was feeling, and that she didn’t know how much longer she would be around. In the middle of the conversation, she said that a nurse had come, and that she had to hang up, but asked that I call back in a bit. At that point, I told Lou that she sounded terrible, and that I was going to make the trip to see her one way or another. The matter wasn’t yet settled between us when I called Gram back about an hour later, but by then, she sounded like a completely different person. She said that she had just suddenly been able to finally go to the bathroom to clear out her system and felt so much better. Then she was chatty, upbeat, and happy, and we had a nice conversation about Anjelica and other normal topics. Frankly, it was probably one of the most pleasant, enjoyable chats I had ever had with her in my entire life. So, needless to say, I didn’t make the emergency deathwatch road trip to say goodbye.

Hopefully she is happier now. I believe that once your body dies, your eternal spirit continues on in peace, yet with a clear vision of your human life and of your loved ones, and that most souls are able to see where they had become off-purpose and disconnected from love. I believe that they forgive and want forgiveness for the errors and shortcomings while in bodily form. Most of my memories of Gram are not of happy times, but of conflict and issues. From my perspective, she and Aunt Mamie fought their entire lives, yet Mamie was always there looking out for her sister, trying to make her happy, right up until her own death. My mom seemed to never be able to do enough to satisfy her mother either. We’d visit her for hours, and yet we couldn’t leave without hearing how short the time had been, and couldn’t we come again soon when we could stay longer. My parents bought her a special lift chair at home, and she complained that it attacked her. When she had needed emergency service, she wasn’t grateful for the rescue help, but angry at the damage done breaking into the house to reach her. I found it difficult to ever become emotionally close to my grandmother when I could see how much she upset both Mamie and my parents for as far back as I can remember. She didn’t even try to hide the fact that she vehemently disliked my father, who was only six years her junior.

Actually, it’s my dad I’m worried about now. He is very tired and weak. He just turned 84, so it’s natural for him to have less energy, but I knew something was really wrong when he didn’t have the strength to come to the airport to meet us when we flew in for Gram’s funeral. When I walked into my parents’ house, he was sleeping in a reclining chair in the darkened living room; I immediately had a clear image of him dead. We are waiting on test results to find out why he is so exhausted.

January 1998

To everything I was last year, I shall shed a single tearOur relationship is still going down the tubes. We have everything we could possibly want, but Lou seems miserable, and I don’t know how to make him happy. He’s not talking to his mother or his sister, and has no close friends. He loves our house, but absolutely hates all our neighbors, and their feelings are mutual. But when I suggest we look at houses elsewhere, he says he doesn’t want to just move from one part of town to another. He doesn’t want to have to pay for a move anywhere for that matter, so I suggested that maybe we look into me finding another job at Hewlett-Packard with a relocation package. He likes that idea in concept, but doesn’t want to move to California, which is where the most opportunities are. He literally makes me feel crazy; I spend all my energy trying to make him happy, but I often think that he’s actually happy being miserable. I don’t know if anything will ever be enough.

There are snippets of a poem, or maybe they are just thoughts, that annoyingly run through my head on constant repeat; I feel like it was somehow complete in my dreams, but I wake with parts of it replaying over and over. I keep thinking that if I can recall and finish, it will stop. But all I have is:

   I Set You Free
In the beginning,
You said I should be your wife, and always stay by your side
You said I brought you happiness, and made your life complete
You said I set you free from all the pain inside
You said I set you free.

Now that we’re married,
You say, as your wife, I must stand in mute agreement by your side
You say my love is not enough to be happy and you just need more
I say, I need to be set free from all the pain inside
I say, I set you free.

I don’t know how to fill in the blanks to get there, but in the end, I need to be set free from all the pain of not being enough in his world, and I need to set him free. It’s just too hard grasping onto nothing.

I remember some parts of a poem I wrote in middle school for an English class about being free:

Free
What is this thing that they call free?
It’s what I hope some day to be.
….
This thing of wonder – feeling free.

There was more to the middle of that little poem that I don’t remember. I’m sure it was quite profound and lovely. I think I wrote it back in like 1977, because I remember another one from the same timeframe:

1976
To everything I was last year,
I shall shed a single tear.
To all the friends that I have known,
And all the nights I spent alone.
For all my joys, my sorrows and fears,
To them I shed I single tear.

It seems like another lifetime when I was 13 or 14, and I was as free as I ever would be in my life, and my reflection on the year only inspired one single tear.

July 1997

Lately, I've been trying to improve my love lifeHappy Birthday to me. I typically feel like I need to do something to improve myself around my birthday. I get serious about diet and exercise and plan to get better at one thing or another. Then it wears off within a few weeks and I go back to normal. I view my birthday as many others regard New Year’s Day. And my resolutions last about as long.

Lately, I’ve been trying to improve my love life, but that doesn’t seem to be going very far. One night, Lou basically said that he felt our relationship had become too routine, and that there wasn’t enough romance. I couldn’t agree more. Actually, I don’t think there has ever been much, if any, romance between us, but I didn’t say that. What I did say was that it was something that we could work on changing together.

He has no clue that I can read all the e-mails that he sends and some of the ones that he gets under his screen name on our America Online account. I can only imagine what he is constantly chatting about online. But in the e-mails, I can clearly see that he is looking to hook up with a bunch of different women, and that he absolutely does regularly cheat on me. I don’t know what I can do about it, though. If I admitted to reading the e-mails, he would just turn that around as my fault for snooping and would say that I was taking the letters out of context. I have expressed my feelings that it seems he’s generally unhappy and that he is obviously spending a lot of time chatting online with women. His typical response is that I am paranoid, and that he’s doing nothing wrong, but that I will actually make it happen if I continue with “this vicious circle.” But in one of those typically futile conversations I initiated, he actually did share his feeling that the romance was gone from our marriage.

Oddly enough, I was thrilled to have something to try to fix. I bought a few books about romance that I showed him, including Light His Fire and 1001 Ways to be Romantic. I tried several different suggestions from the books intended for his pleasure and benefit. He didn’t respond to anything I did to woo him. I found the book Light Her Fire that I had given him to use as a tool to romance me back tossed in the back of the closet; the binding audibly cracked when I opened the book, which clearly meant that he didn’t bother to read any of it. I don’t think he really wants to change anything about our romance; I think he just wanted something that he could claim was wrong with us…wrong with me… to justify his actions.

His e-mails to other women don’t give me much clue why he’s really unhappy with our marriage. He explains what he enjoys, such as working out, traveling, and flying. The e-mails include details about specific things we’ve all done together, like flying to spend the day at a far-away beach, going to certain restaurants, or a trip out of state over the weekend, but the stories are told as if Anjelica and I don’t even exist and he did those activities alone.

March 1997

I can't think of a single time when he has ever let it goThere’s nothing like a little road rage to get your adrenaline flowing. We were heading home in the Mercedes one night on the Blue Route in Pennsylvania in the pouring rain. Lou was driving in a middle lane, doing a little faster than the speed limit when a car came up behind us flashing its headlights. Lou cocked his head as he regarded the situation in the mirror, but simply stated, “I don’t know where he thinks I can go.” There was a fair amount of traffic in the right lane, so he didn’t turn on his directional and try to move over, and just kept going at the same speed with the flow of traffic in the lane we were in. The car behind us got up close, tailgating our bumper, and again flashed the headlights. In the mirror, I could see it was a large vehicle, like a van. I could also see that what the driver was doing had really pissed off Lou, who proceeded to slow the car down. Anjelica was sleeping in a car seat in the back, and I softly asked Lou to just let the guy go. He ignored me, and the other driver stayed on our tail as our car went slower, then faster, then Lou suddenly slammed hard on the brakes. Lou wore a wry smile, but now, I was the one who was pissed; I asked him again to please let it go, reminding him that Anjelica was in the car. I watched in my side view mirror as the van struggled to not hit us, dropped way back and stayed there for a while, then moved over into the right lane and accelerated. I kept my head facing straight forward but peered out of the corner of my eye to watch what was going on, yet still avoid making eye contact so I could ignore whatever gesture was likely to follow. But what I saw out of the corner of my eye made me quickly turn to look straight at the van driver, and into the barrel of a shotgun pointed right at me. I shouted, “He’s got a gun!” Without hesitation, Lou once again hit the brakes, and this time, it was our car that dropped back. We got up close behind the van and I wrote down the license plate number and details about the vehicle. We luckily had a mobile phone in the car; I called the police, gave them the information about the incident, and updates on our ever-changing location as we followed the vehicle. At one point, the other driver pulled onto the shoulder, so we also stopped on the side of the road, far behind him. We could see a police car across the highway with its flashing lights on, maneuvering around to our side. Then the van took off again; I stayed on the phone with the dispatcher, as Lou followed the van off an exit ramp and onto a dark side road. Then we saw first one, then two, then three… it seemed about five police cars eventually converged on the vehicle, and it pulled over to the side of the road. The police approached the vehicle with their guns drawn and ordered the driver out of the car. As he exited the car with his hands behind his head, I prayed that I was right about what I had seen. He was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a police car, and I watched as the officers pulled two rifles out of his van. Simultaneously relieved and infuriated to see the firearms, I jumped out of our car and bolted over to the police car and yelled at the cuffed van driver, demanding an explanation for how he dared to point a gun at my daughter and me. I imagine he didn’t hear a word, and was glad to be behind the glass, safe from the raving madwoman.

We went to the police station to give our report, and were told the other guy’s side of the story. He claimed it was all Lou’s fault, saying that he was driving normally when Lou suddenly hit the brakes, causing him to also quickly brake, causing his hunting rifle to fall from the back seat and out of its case. He says it was a coincidence that he happened to be picking it up and handling it as he was passing us on the right. I guess he just happened to be sneering right at me at the time as well. If nothing else, he’ll be without his guns for a while. A man without a gun is like… umm … just a whole lot safer for everyone.

These stupid road rage incidents make me crazy. I don’t think it’s necessarily Lou’s fault that they get started. I believe there are a bunch of angry drivers just looking for someone to join their little games, and Lou seems to always be suited up ready to play. I really don’t need to get drawn into other people’s drama. Who cares if the other asshole wins? What is winning, anyway? They get to go ahead of you in a merge. They get to pass you. They get to give you the finger. They get away with flashing their headlights. They get away with cutting you off. They get the parking spot you saw first. Who cares? Lou cares. As do many other guys who drive around with too much testosterone in their blood stream. I can always feel it coming, too. Something stupid happens on the road, and it’s like a shotgun at the start of a race, or the ring of the bell sounding a round of boxing, and the match is on. Every time, I beg Lou to just let it go, especially when Anjelica is in the car. But I can’t think of a single time when he has ever let it go.

July 1996

"I realize that I'm simply not making conscious choices from all the options that exist"

“I realize that I’m simply not making conscious choices from all the options that exist”

I have finally been promoted to Finance Manager at HP. I love working there, but it has been really frustrating being stuck at the level of “Senior Analyst” for years, while watching the Wharton Alumni Magazine publish news from my graduating class, and noting the awe-inspiring announcements of promotions and job changes. I realize only select individuals share their “news,” but it makes me a little bit crazy to contemplate the possible career I could have with even a little flexibility. It’s definitely more important for me to go home nightly and be with my family than it is to make a lot of money. More salary and fancy titles are not the issues for me. I realize that I’m simply not making conscious choices from all the options that exist; I have only ever considered whatever conveniently fits without disrupting our lives. We moved to North Carolina for Lou’s MBA, and I worked there. Then we moved to Long Island for his first job, and so I got my BS at SUNY StonyBrook. Then we relocated to this area when he got his consulting job in Philly, and I so got my job at Playtex in Delaware. Despite the fact that he became self-employed years ago, it has never been an option to move for the benefit of my education or career. I applied only to Wharton for grad school because Phily was close. After graduation, I only sent my resume to firms that I could commute to from home and for jobs that did not require travel. Not that I want to travel for work… one person in the family who is frequently away on business is more than enough.

I was thrilled about my new position, until I told Lou. His initial reaction was, “See, isn’t it good that you went to business school?” I agreed that getting our MBAs has really been a great investment that has paid back well for both of us. He then said, “You know, you would still be working in a restaurant as a waitress or something or at the front desk of a hotel if it weren’t for me pushing you into going to college.” I replied that I’d always had every intention of continuing with my education beyond my associate’s degree. He was instantly furious as if I had hurled a horribly degrading insult at him. I felt the glare of his eyes almost burn through me as they transformed from dark to coal-black, small, and sunken below his brow; his face tensed and he bellowed, “Don’t go there! Don’t even think about going there! How dare you say that? I believe you saved my life. How can you claim that you would have gone to school anyway? Is that really what you have to say to me now?”

I was dumbfounded by his reaction. I didn’t say it out loud, but my initial thought was that I actually would have completed college a whole lot earlier if I hadn’t taken time off from college to work to pay our bills while he got his MBA when we first got married. Maybe I wouldn’t necessarily have become a Finance major at Wharton in particular, but I would definitely have continued with college. I put all my plans on hold for him, and then changed my plans completely because we lived where he wanted to work, despite the fact that none of the nearby colleges had degree programs I wanted to pursue. He actually thinks I would have no education and no career without his influence? And when I object to that absurd assertion, he’s mad at me for having the nerve to believe I had something to do with the course of my own life? I didn’t say any of that out loud either.

What I did verbalize is that I hadn’t meant anything negative, and that I was sorry if it sounded that way. I explained that I was just saying that he made it seem like I had no ambition for anything on my own, but that I did always want to continue with college. I said that I know he supported and encouraged me, just as I did him. He was unimpressed by my reply, and just scowled and repeated, “How dare you?” He stayed mad for days, giving me the cold shoulder, and calling me “Jo” instead of “Joey” when he did speak to me at all. Personally, I think it should be the other way around.

I read a book, The Celestine Prophecy, which is a fictional novel, that has me thinking a lot about life in general. Within the story, the book breaks down personality types into four categories based on what methods people use to essentially gain power and control over others: “aloof,” “intimidator,” “interrogator,” and “poor me.” I see Lou as a definite intimidator, and I think I fit in the category of aloof, because I tend to stay so quiet now. I never used to be that way, and I’m not quiet in the office. At work, I’m outgoing, very vocal, and participate in meetings and always stick my neck out with my opinions. The rest of the time, I tend to keep my mouth shut. In the book, they say that being quiet would be a control mechanism to keep other people feeling uneasy and off-guard and guessing about what I’m thinking. I’m trying to absorb that concept, but it doesn’t seem to fit me quite right. I keep my mouth shut more often because I don’t want to say something wrong that’s going to cause a problem. Being quiet causes problems itself, but from my standpoint, it is preferable because I can only be accused of being too quiet. But that doesn’t work either, because Lou says my silence makes other people feel I’m being judgmental, and that I think I’m too good for them or something. It’s still easier to defend being quiet than having to justify every word I speak.

On a positive note, I got my check from Harrah’s for my lawsuit for my neck injury. Now the plane and the house are both paid off. The only remaining debt is the student loan from my Wharton education, which, apparently, can be accredited to Lou along with my promotion and the favorable lawsuit judgment.

June 1996

"I think I am saving myself from what could be more devastating suffering"

“I think I am saving myself from what could be more devastating suffering”

I finally had my gallbladder removed. I had to convince another doctor I was willing to take the risk that taking it out may not be the solution, but in the end, he agreed with the diagnosis and decision to operate. Good news is there has been no pain since that thing came out of my body, and the post-surgery biopsy proved the organ was defective. So, I was right after all. My friend from work, Sandy and her husband Rob, took care of Anjelica while I was in the hospital. Lou had to speak at an APICS dinner meeting in New York, so he couldn’t even be with me for the surgery, let alone take care of Anjelica. I guess he didn’t miss much, besides looking at me sleeping it off.

I know there was nothing for him to do, but it is unsettling to go into surgery by yourself, and knowing nobody is waiting for you to come out and be with you afterward to make sure you are ok, to get you a ginger ale, to make sure you are comfortable and that your nurse brings meds when you have pain. Then again, I didn’t ask him to change his plans to stay with me, either. Is it a passive aggressive action on my part to not ask for something and then feel bad that it didn’t happen? Does it even count if I never let the other person know that it upset me? Perhaps acting like its all ok and not making any sarcastic or guilt tripping comments makes me more of a resentful martyr. I don’t think that qualifies as a virtue in anyone’s book. It just seems pointless to ask someone to do something that you think they would offer to do out of love. If they refuse, or do it begrudgingly then it feels worse; so I would rather have never asked. This way, that leaves open the possibility that if only they had understood what was wanted, they would have gladly granted the request, making it my own fault for not having asked in the first place. That alternative just seems less painful; I’m not trying to martyr myself, I think I am saving myself from what could cause more devastating suffering. So perhaps that classifies me as a risk-averse chicken shit.

March 1996

Lou and Anjelica for her first haircut - 1994

Lou and Anjelica for her first haircut – 1994

Anjelica is doing great at the Montessori School near my office where she started last fall after turning two. The only downside of not staying at home with a nanny is that she started getting frequent earaches and colds. After many rounds of ineffective antibiotics, the doctor gave her a vaccine to help ward off viruses, and sent us to a specialist, who suggested having her adenoids removed. What a heartbreaker it was to let go when she went in for surgery. I acted calm, but was such an emotional wreck inside; I was so relieved when she came out and everything was fine. She was dopey for a while, and really grumpy coming home from the hospital, and it was so unlike her to be unsettled in the car. Lou was extremely frustrated by her attitude, and really irritated with me for making him pull over so I could get in the back to cuddle next to her car seat. I imagine she was in pain, and probably felt like crap from the anesthesia. It’s not like she’s old enough to give a great explanation on her own, but I think we’re old enough to figure out why she’s being so cranky. Hopefully this will end all the little sicknesses.

I’m trying to find out what’s wrong with me, too. I keep having pain on the right side of my gut under the ribs. I’ve been doubled over in pain so many times and still don’t know what it is. The doctor sent me to the emergency room one time, where they did an ultrasound, but couldn’t find anything. I overheard some old guy from behind he curtain in the next exam area explaining his symptoms, which sounded just like mine; they found gallstones with his ultrasound. He was headed right for surgery, but they sent me home with instructions to see a G-I doctor for more invasive tests, including a colonoscopy and an endoscopy, during which I woke up gagging on a camera down my throat. They didn’t find much except that I’ve burned holes in my stomach from the anti-inflammatory meds I take for muscle spasms and neck pain. They prescribed different drugs for acid reflux, IBS, and a variety of other things that they think are stress related, but none of those treatments help. I still think it is my gallbladder. My mother and two of my sisters had their gallbladders removed, so it isn’t too crazy to think mine could be bad also. I’m getting tired of this specialist, who seems to imply the problem is all in my head; I really want to see someone else.

July 1995

N470SP

N470SP

I am feeling quite lucky, and am confident that a guardian angel is watching over us. You know those times when you see or read something in the news about an accident, and it is perfectly clear that the people involved were doing something destined to result in a bad outcome…. and you scratch your head and ask, “What were they thinking?” This was one of those times, although this one did not make the local news.

We went for my first flight in our new airplane on my birthday. Lou flew it home from buying it in Illinois with his mechanic and flight instructor, and also flew down to Texas and back by himself already. The plane is a gorgeous Trinidad TB-20, from France. It looks like a sports car to me; it’s maroon and white, with low wings, and has the gull-wing doors that open upward, like a DeLorean. Inside, the seats are really comfortable, and it fits five people plus storage for luggage and gear. Lou looked and looked and looked before he found the perfect plane; this one is like new. We took out a mortgage on the house to pay for it, but that’s only temporary until I get my check from the lawsuit. Luckily, we had paid off our mortgage early, so it was easy to get the money we needed without having to finance the plane, since interest rates are better on a home equity loan than on an airplane. I love the plane’s tail number: N470SP, which is spoken as “November Four Seven Zero Sierra Papa.” I think it’s cool because Anjelica’s middle name is Sierra, and Lou is her Papa.

Anyway, for my birthday weekend, we went to Cape Cod for the day. The beach was awesome; being on the ocean is absolutely one my most favorite ways to spend a day. I’m still not used to flying in a small plane, and worry about other airplane traffic that I’m told is too far away to be any threat. I assume I’ll learn to relax after a while. Nico and Mia invited us to join their family outing in the Catskills, so we stopped for a visit on our way home. They picked us up at the local airport, and we hung out with their whole family for a few hours. We could have stayed over, but Lou really wanted to get back home. But when we returned to the tiny private airport, we found the FBO was closed and everything dark and deserted, without runway lights that could be operated by radio control.

Lou insisted that it was still fine, and that we could take off with no problem, but suggested that Nico help by parking his car at the end of the runway with its headlights on for a visual reference. So Nico parked his car there, and wisely got out of the vehicle … just in case.

We took off from the runway and cleared the car just fine, but it was pitch black once we were past its headlights. I looked down from my window, and could see Nico’s car shrinking behind us and to the side. I then saw a strange light off to the right through our front window, and I asked Lou what it was. Then suddenly, all I could see through the windshield were leaves. Lou was looking down at something at that moment, and so I pointed and warned, “trees!” He immediately adjusted course, and once again, all was pitch black in front of us. But there were only a few seconds of darkness until, again, the windshield view was full of leaves. This was not just a mass of distant green trees; we were so close that I could distinguish individual leaves, and practically see the bulging veins on each leaf that seemed to be close enough to reach out to pick if not for the invisible barrier of the windshield. Again, I pointed, and exclaimed the obvious, “trees!” And again, he adjusted he course, and we were thrust back into total blackness. Eventually, we saw some tiny lights below that served as a reference point for orientation, the plane leveled out, and he managed to fly home without further incident.

Neither one of us remembers noticing a mountain that close to the runway when we had landed that day, and we have no idea how we could have gotten that far off course so quickly. Lou later called Nico to see what he thought of the take off, and how it looked from his end, but didn’t tell him what happened, because Nico probably would never fly with us if he knew. What we realized after getting straightened out, is that flying in the pitch black dark is pretty much the same as flying in clouds or bad weather when you can’t see obstacles. The lack of runway lighting was the least of the problems. Not being able to see anything once we were up in the air was the real issue.

My feeling is that any major mishap in flight, or in life for that matter, isn’t typically caused by just one thing; more often, it is the culmination of many factors that converge at once to create the crisis. Let’s count up the strikes against us in this situation: newly licensed private pilot with low hours of flying time; no instrument training; pilot inexperienced with new complex aircraft; unfamiliar airport; no lights at airport; dark; rural area with no ground lights for reference; no moonlight; dark; mountainous terrain; and oh yeah… dark. Personally, I’d add to the list a cocky young pilot who thinks he can make no mistakes. Today, I think he sees most of the same things, but faults the training process for not making it clear that nighttime VFR flying can be nearly impossible in really dark situations in remote locations. Even though the sky was perfectly clear, we might have just as well been flying in a dense fog.

He’s definitely going to train and get certified for Instrument flying, which he needs anyway so that he can fly to work sites regardless of the weather conditions. He barely made it down to Texas and back because of bad weather. It will be a lot safer once he gets some better training and more flight time.

Anyway, we both feel very lucky and watched over, and are grateful to be alive. And nobody but us is asking today, “What were they thinking?”

June 1995

Bader Field, Atlantic City (Source: Wikipedia)

Bader Field, Atlantic City (Source: Wikipedia)

I finally had my lawsuit go to trial for my neck injury at Harrah’s casino in Atlantic City. It would have been difficult driving from Delaware to Atlantic City each day, but Lou was renting airplanes to go to his client site anyway, so he flew me in and dropped me off and picked me up at Bader Field right in downtown Atlantic City each day of the trial, which lasted about 3 days. He was only able to take time off to attend the part of the trial where he testified. He was actually a joint plaintiff in the case, and was also suing the hotel for “loss of services;” my services, to be specific. Reality is that he hasn’t lost that much, since I still do the same everything I’ve always done. It’s just that now, I do it while I’m in pain. Lou did not prevail on his joint complaint, but I won for my part and have a nice award coming, but it will take time to work through the appeal steps before we are actually paid. I think my attorney did an awesome job when he wrapped it up, so the jurors could put a value on my injury. I have insurance, and I continued to go to work, so lost wages and the medical bills out of my pocket were not all that much. So he presented my injury like it is a job, where I had to deal with the pain, the trips to doctors’ offices, physical therapy, and such, and asked them to value what that job should pay. I think I did well in my testimony, and was credible, since I didn’t try to embellish or lie about anything. Lou says I totally bored the jury, and his testimony alone got them to find in my favor. I don’t know what he said, because the judge made me leave the courtroom while he was on the stand. And Lou doesn’t really know the majority of what I said, because he wasn’t there for most of the trial. In any case, we did win, and it doesn’t really matter who said what to make it happen. I just told the truth and that’s all I could do anyhow.

Since we have some extra money coming in, we’ve been looking at buying an airplane. Lou keeps asking me if I’d rather get a sports car instead, but it just doesn’t make sense at this point. Before Anjelica was born, I really wanted a Miata, but there’s no back seat, so that’s not practical now. Even if we got a fun car with a back seat, we still wouldn’t go very far with it, because Lou has to drive all the time for work, so the last thing he wants to do is drive for fun. And even if we did go somewhere, you can still only go as fast as the speed limit, regardless of what the car is capable of doing. With a plane, he can get to his client sites faster, so he’ll be home more, and the three of us can go on weekend day trips all the time. We’ve already rented a few times and had a blast traveling by plane. It’s an expensive toy, but fun.

December 1994

Lou , Jo, and Anjelica with Frontline Teamwork - book promo picture 1994

Lou , Jo, and Anjelica with Frontline Teamwork – book promo picture 1994

Christmas with Anjelica is fun this year. At 16 months, she is old enough to get a huge kick out of opening the presents and all the decorations. For all the presents we got her, one of her favorite things to play with is still the home made box of pictures. She and I selected pictures from magazines of random objects and things that she liked, cut them out, and glued them onto thin cardboard. We lay the pieces out on the floor and play two ways: sometimes I hold up a picture and ask her to tell me what it is; other times, the pictures are all laid out and I tell her an object to find, and she picks it out of the pile. She’s better at that version, since she can’t say all the words right yet, but she tries. I know she knows all the words because she can always do the finding part of the game. She is so amazing to me. I taught her how to sing a little bit of Happy Birthday with me, so she could do it for Lou. I sing “Happy Birthday” and she sings all of the ”To You” parts, then when I sing “Happy Birthday, dear…” then she sings, “Daddy.” It is so cute.

I received a pearl necklace for Christmas. I think it was an investment and a guilt gift more than anything else. Not that Lou ever said he was sorry. But he should be. My Great Aunt Mamie died recently, so we flew to New York for her funeral and stayed at my sister’s house. My sister has a dog and a cat, which Anjelica loves, and she was chasing them around and playing fine with both of them. The rest of my family was there, and everything was great, until the dog happened to lick Anjelica on her cheek. Lou scooped her up, stated that it was gross, and told her she couldn’t play with the pets any more. It was awkward and uncomfortable, so everyone was trying to make light of the situation with conversation, and my mom made a comment that she had heard that there were more germs in a human’s mouth than in a dog’s. He didn’t lighten up at all, but went on lamenting about how gross it was. My sister had offered for a friend to babysit Anjelica while we went to Mamie’s funeral, and said she was flexible about where and times for whatever we wanted. I thought it was really nice and appreciated that she had tried to find someone for us, since everyone in the family would be at the funeral. Lou didn’t respond, was ice cold to her and everyone in general, and wanted us to go to bed early. As soon as we got in the guest room alone, he went off on the dog-licking incident. You would think she had been mauled by that one very gentle, friendly lick. He was furious at my mother’s germ comment, and felt she and everyone else had ganged up against him. He fumed that it was absolutely disgusting that a dog and cat live inside the house, and he couldn’t stand it. Rather than debate the whole topic of household pets, I just suggested that we get a hotel room instead. We could afford the flight and hotel and a car rental because I was paying for the trip with inheritance from Mamie’s estate. He started going on about how my sister was trying to control everything, and that she had some nerve arranging for a babysitter, that there was no way that she was going to dictate that, and he would not leave his child with a stranger. I said that I felt she was offering alternatives, and wasn’t being bossy or controlling at all in my opinion, and that we didn’t need to use a sitter at all. I suggested that we just take turns with Anjelica outside the funeral home, that I go by myself to the cemetery, and that she would be fine with us together the rest of the time. That wasn’t good enough. He said it was stupid for him to be there just to sit in a hotel and babysit Anjelica, and that he would rather just go back home and take care of her there where he can be comfortable. I told him that I really wanted them to stay with me, and I’d do whatever necessary to make that happen. He insisted that he was leaving. I have never been separated from Anjelica overnight before, and I didn’t want it to happen. I cried. I cried hard. I literally begged him not to leave with her. First thing in the morning, before anyone else in the house was awake, he got on their phone and changed his ticket to the next flight out. I managed to calmly ask my sister to borrow her car, but broke down crying when she asked why, and I told her Lou was leaving with Anjelica. We almost never visit with my family, and this was one of the very few times they had been able to see Anjelica, and he was taking her away. I felt like I was being punished. I didn’t do anything. My crime actually was in what I didn’t do. A friendly dog gently licked our daughter, and I didn’t become outraged. My family made light of it, and I didn’t defend Lou’s position. My sister offered babysitting assistance, and I didn’t see it as an offensive controlling maneuver.

I also didn’t get to peacefully honor my beloved great aunt. I didn’t get to spend time together with my daughter and my entire family. I ended up going home early also, and so I didn’t get to spend much time with my family even by myself. I did get to cry. That’s about all I did do. I don’t think I have ever cried so much in my entire life. I’m still mad, and still sad. He still thinks he was right about everything, including the decision to go home with Anjelica. It’s not worth fighting about any more.

So I wasn’t thrilled or excited about my pearl necklace, which wasn’t a surprise gift anyway. He showed me all his research and took me to the jewelry store to examine the Mikimoto pearls he had identified as being “the best.” I was with him when he negotiated the price down, purchased them, and then insisted on a written appraisal at a higher value. He kept talking about them as an investment. I don’t need expensive jewelry, and never asked for pearls. Besides, he had seen that I received some pearls from Mamie’s estate. Save the sentimental value, they are nothing special, but they would look nice. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the value of the ones he bought, it’s just that I don’t need them; I doubt they will get a lot of use, and now I won’t be able to justify wearing Mamie’s pearls at all. I tried to persuade him not to buy them, but he insisted. It’s really my own fault; I should have clearly stated that I didn’t want them instead of saying that I don’t need them.

November 1994

AOL Dial up (photo from You Tube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1UY7eDRXrs

AOL Dial up
(photo from You Tube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1UY7eDRXrs

Our new Nanny / Office Assistant, Leanne, seems to be working out well so far. She’s a bit high strung, but she has great experience from a daycare center. Jennifer, her predecessor, worked out great too, but she got a higher paying full time job, and couldn’t work with us any longer. It is crazy how many people we went through after Astrid and before finding Jen. At work, I mockingly call myself “Murphy Brown” from that TV show, because we can’t hold on to a decent babysitter / office assistant. Maybe it would be a lot easier if we could simply hire a qualified nanny, but in addition to childcare, the person has to also be able to handle administrative duties and work with Lou in his home office. Thank God for Astrid, Jennifer and Leanne, who stayed for a while. Nobody else has lasted more than a few hours, days, or weeks at the most, before there were major issues. It was always something different, but most of them just couldn’t work with Lou for one reason or another. One of the biggest nanny-duty complaints Lou had early on was that they didn’t change Anjelica’s diaper immediately when it was wet or soiled. I probably don’t change it fast enough for him, for that matter. He’s really uptight about the diaper thing, and may not understand that it is not like wearing an old, wet cloth diaper anymore. He’s only changed her a few times total, only on the rare occasions when he’s been home alone with her. He’s actually not home that often anyway, because he travels for work so much, and when he is in town, he spends a lot of time at the gym.

Frankly, he has been really frustrated, I’d say almost depressed, the past several months. He complained that he felt bored and stagnant, and wanted to do something different to expand or improve or grow in some way. He talked a lot about wanting to go back to college and get his PhD. I was supportive, and looked into a few programs for him, but nothing clicked as a good match. He wanted professors he could admire and look up to that could be mentors he could really learn from. But when he looked through the program materials and professor profiles, he didn’t see anything or anyone that inspired him. He still feels the loss of his father; not only from his death a couple years ago, but also from the fantasy image he carries in his mind about what a father is supposed to be, as a mentor and guide, and especially as a role model for his son. He has mourned that void since long before his dad’s death.

After much discussion with me about how to get him out of his funk, Lou recently started taking flying lessons, and feels a connection to his father that way. He says that it something that always interested his dad, and that if he were alive now, they would be able to spend a lot of time talking about together. But mostly, he feels like it challenges him, and that he is learning and growing because of it. I think it is good, since a pilot’s license will make it possible to do more things go more places as a family. We rarely travel because he has to drive so much for work that he never wants to go anywhere for leisure, vacation, or even over holidays to visit family. But in general, I support it because it makes him happy. If he’s happy, then I’m happy.

Maybe now, he won’t stay holed up in his office logged onto America Online for hours and hours on end. The money we would save from that alone would pay for the flying lessons. AOL charges for usage by the hour, and we’ve had hundreds of dollars in overage bills most months. If he is willing to pay that much, then I think he is addicted. Personally, I find AOL to be a boring waste of time. I am so sick of hearing the grinding wail of the modem connecting, then the exclamation of, “You’ve got Mail,” followed by the incessant clicking of the computer keyboard and dinging tones while he is responding to mail and trolling the chat rooms and instant messaging with strangers. Just about every time I walk in his office, I can see that he’s communicating with women. I don’t know which is worse, when I actually see the flirty messages on his screen, or when he abruptly closes down AOL completely when I enter the room. He says it is fun for him, that it doesn’t mean anything at all, and that it is just talk. But I notice the screen names, later look them up myself, and know they live either locally or in towns where he’s consulting. If it is just online fun, then why only select people who are close enough to meet in person? Sometimes I wake up to find that he got out of bed in the middle of the night to go back online. It’s as if he has a prearranged online date or something. He has no clue that I often screw him up by lifting the handset of the phone extension on my nightstand on purpose to break his connection; I pretend to be sound asleep, but can see through the slits of my eyes that he looks into our room from the doorway, trying to figure out why he got booted off. Once in a while, he’ll give up and come back to bed, but he usually keeps logging back on, and I keep picking up the extension and feigning sleep.

He closes the door to his office, and thinks I don’t hear him, but the modem makes so much noise that it usually wakes me up. It totally pisses me off, but when I complained about him being online with other women so much, he got furious, and told me that he’s got nothing else and does nothing else. He says he doesn’t have other friends to hang out with, he doesn’t go out drinking, or anything so I’m lucky compared to what most other husbands do. I tried to explain that it makes me feel bad when I’m sitting alone in the next room, knowing he would rather go online and chat with strangers than talk to me. I brought up the fact that it always seems to be women that he’s talking to, and that it makes me feel like he’s looking and hunting for other relationships. He said that he’s not, but that if I continue to accuse him of it, then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that I will be the one who makes it happen. I can’t win; I lose whether I say anything or not. The only difference is that if I keep my mouth shut, then I don’t have to hear that it’s all my fault.

I don’t know what else I’m supposed to be doing to please him that I’m not. We have sex whenever he wants, which is often, and he says our sex is hot. I lost all the weight from being pregnant, and work out with him at the gym to stay in good shape and spend time together. I support him with his business in all ways: emotionally, mentally, and physically, by helping him with all of his writing and seminars, as well as whatever else he needs. I keep our house perfectly clean. I cook good food. I have a great job with good income and benefits. I almost always get home from work at normal times, and save any overtime work I have to do on my laptop for after Lou and Anjelica are both asleep. I am a good mother. I make few demands on him. I actually don’t think I make any demands on him for that matter. Yet still, he isn’t happy just being with me.

August 1994

Lou and Anjelica

Lou and Anjelica

Anjelica just had her first birthday. She is such a smart little cookie, and so darn cute. She loves everything pink and anything Minnie Mouse… well… maybe that’s me. She’s been walking for quite a while, and has quite an extensive vocabulary for her age. I keep up on what she’s “supposed” to be doing by what age, and she’s consistently ahead of schedule. She can do some basic counting, and even has a great sense of humor. I kept talking to her about her upcoming birthday and telling her that she was going to be one year old, and she understood. But if I ask her, “How old is Anjelica?” she smiles, raises two fingers and says, “Two!” She laughs, and I say, “No, you’re one,” and put down one of her fingers. She just laughs right back and insists, “No, I’m two!” and puts her second finger back up. She is so much fun all the time. I sometimes take her to work with me, and she plays with toys I have stashed in a box under my desk, and she isn’t shy about wandering around to hang out with all the other people in the office. Just about everyone happily offers a lap, paper, and markers and lets her play at their desk, too.

Lou and Anjelica

Lou and Anjelica

Lou even has a great time playing with her now that she can interact more; she loves to roughhouse with him, and especially likes it when he makes an Anjelica sandwich. That’s when she runs around our bed until he catches her, and then picks her up and smooshes her between two pillows and tosses her down on the bed. She gets up over and over laughing and giggling the whole time squealing, “Do it again!” She’s never gotten hurt that way, but on her birthday she had her first and only injury ever to draw blood. I was sitting with her on our bed, she was playing beside me, and she just kind of tipped over the edge and hit her head on the nightstand. I caught her before she fell off, but I wasn’t quick enough. Now she has a diagonal cut across her forehead that kind of looks like mine from when I got hit in the head with a shovel at age three or four. Hopefully hers won’t scar for life like mine did. We have a king sized bed now, and gave her our old “big bed” which she loves. Seems ridiculous for a one year old to have a double bed, but she had learned how to climb out of her crib, so it just wasn’t safe to keep her in it any longer. Besides, now it is easier for me to lay down with her to a read her a story at bedtime, and cuddle before she goes to sleep. That’s my favorite part of every day.

December 1993

Lou and Anjelica on Christening Day

Lou and Anjelica on Christening Day

We had Anjelica baptized last month on Long Island. We don’t belong to a Catholic church here, so we asked the Father at the church Lou’s dad worked at before he died last year if he would do it for us. He reluctantly agreed, but it was unusual because we didn’t go through the normal procedures. After the ceremony we had a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant. Lou’s mom was there, and a lot of his New Jersey cousins and aunts and uncles, and of course, Nico and Mia and some other friends. My sister and my parents came, as well as Jeff, one of my close friends I kept in touch with from Stony Brook. I gave everyone little crystal Angel figurine Christmas tree decorations as a take home gift. My dad took two

Jo and Anjelica on Christening Day

Jo and Anjelica on Christening Day

and wore them as earrings. He was in a great mood. Everything went well, and I think everyone had a great time. Lou is still not talking to his sister, so she and her family weren’t there, even though they live very close. Hopefully, they will be able to get past what happened and co-exist peacefully. There’s always a fight with someone in his family. I don’t have the energy to fight like that. At least his dad can be at peace from all the family battles.

Frontline Teamwork - One Company's Story of Success

Frontline Teamwork – One Company’s Story of Success

We’ve settled into the parent thing fairly well after all. Lou seems happier. I almost feel like we had two babies this year – Anjelica and our book, Frontline Teamwork, One Company’s Story of Success[i], which was dedicated “to the spirit of Howard Roark,” which, I suppose is fitting for Lou. Both of our names are listed as co-authors of the book, but he never asks me to sign them when we send out autographed copies. It’s all about the consulting business anyway, so it really doesn’t matter that much, but it would be nice to be recognized for my contributions. Lou’s obsessed with book sales. We bought a bunch of them that we are selling ourselves. I tell him not to worry so much about the profit margin we get on each book, but to just focus on getting it out there. The profit will come from the consulting business he’ll get as a published author and recognized authority in his field. He still is tracking book sales and watching every penny of profit. He tracks our finances the same way. Every month, he updates his spreadsheet with all the latest stock prices and values for every investment, and every dollar in every account that we have, and then he adds another data point to our net worth chart so we can see exactly where we are financially. He has another chart for cumulative income from his consulting business. I don’t think he likes to chart the income monthly because then he’d see that some months and years it is much lower than in others. He likes the charts that go up, up, up. Actually, I don’t think there’s a chart for anything else. Although I wouldn’t doubt it if he had a mental chart for a lot of things he keeps track of.  Every month he shows me the net worth charts and I say how great it is. And just about every month he reads me, and points out in amazement that I really don’t care. It’s not in a bad way that I don’t care; it’s just that I know we have enough money, and that based on what we have coming in and what we spend, we are fine. When we didn’t have enough, I worked more hours and jobs to make sure we’d get by. I don’t spend a lot of money, and I don’t need money and things to be happy. We have the best educations we could get, I have a great job, he has his own successful business, we have two nice cars, a beautiful house, and enough to pay a full time nanny to take care of our daughter at home. I don’t need a chart to show me that we are in good shape. What more could we want?

 


[i] Frontline Teamwork: One Company’s Story of Success, by Louis W. Joy III and Jo A. Joy, Business One Irwin/McGraw Hill Companies, July 1993

October 1993

if I tell him how I really feelI got a clean bill of health from the doctor, and was back at work in six weeks. It was hard to leave Anjelica at home, but Astrid has been great, and she and I were both at home while I was on medical leave. Astrid was mostly doing office work, but I really tried to give her a lot of time with the baby while I was there, so I could get a feel for how she was with her, and she is awesome, so I really don’t have to worry. I started giving baby formula part of the time, as well as breastfeeding. Anjelica doesn’t seem to care one way or the other; she just loves to eat. Lou can even feed her now, which is great, because he feels like there isn’t much for dads to do with a little baby. Our first big night out after Anjelica started the bottle; we went to Atlantic City, and Astrid stayed with her for a few hours. I didn’t anticipate that my boobs would just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It was entertaining at first because men kept staring at them, and I’ve never had anyone even look twice at my chest. But after a while, they started to hurt. Then they started to leak. On the whole ride back, I tried to express milk into a t-shirt that was in the car, but it wasn’t working at all. I woke the baby up to eat as soon as I got home. She’s woken me up enough times when she wanted to eat, so I didn’t feel too guilty about it. God my boobs hurt.

Speaking of boobs, the doctor also said it was ok to have sex again. Lou’s been surprised to see that I’ve already lost so much weight. I still feel heavy, but I think the breastfeeding really helps a lot with burning calories and dropping the pounds. I think the big boobs make me look a little thinner below too. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was not happy when he pulled out our new video camera the first time we were having sex. Looking at the video later, though, I was surprised at how much thinner I am already. I still wish there was no camera. Between the video playing on the TV and the camera recording us, there just is too much technology involved, and it’s a major production. Not exactly my idea of romance. We still do date nights every so often, which is really nice. I dress up, make a nice dinner, and we’ll have a bottle of wine, and sit and talk. But in the end, the TV gets turned on for X-rated videos to accompany sex. If we are someplace without movies, then he’ll talk about fantasy sex in scenarios like you’d see in a movie – with multiple guys having their way with me and stuff. He wants me to go along with it, but it really doesn’t do anything for me, and I really don’t want to make it sound like I would like it, because I’m afraid he’d actually want me to do it. So I stay quiet. Sometimes he’ll press me about it, and if I tell him how I really feel, he gets upset with me for not going along with the fantasy. But I know how he is, so I don’t want to encourage him. I really can’t win one way or the other, so my best bet is to say nothing at all.

August 1993 – II

anjelica20013

Anjelica’s first day on Earth

August 1993 – Part 2
At 12:20AM on Saturday, August 21st, 1993, my little Angel girl was born. She was eight pounds, twenty-one inches long, and healthy, beautiful, and precious and perfect in every way. Anjelica Sierra Joy.

What a month it has been getting to this point. The baby’s room was finally finished, and I sewed bumpers and blankets for the crib. Work has been crazy; I’ve been working on a major capital project and had to make my first video teleconference presentation to the top management at HP in California. I wore a suit jacket and stayed seated the whole time so they wouldn’t realize I was nine months pregnant. I don’t know why I cared, but I just didn’t want them thinking of me as the pregnant one instead of listening to what I was saying, which basically was that the project they all thought was so great would not be worth doing from a financial standpoint. Overall, I think it went well given that I wasn’t telling them what they wanted to hear. I was due on August 18th; our annual budget was due on August 20th, and it was my job to make sure it got in on time and right. So I was glad when the 18th and the 19th passed and I still hadn’t had a baby. I woke up on the morning of the 20th and felt different, and told Lou, “today’s the day.” My water hadn’t broken or anything, but I’d been having cramping since about two in the morning. I went to work anyway to get the budgets out, and people kept telling me to go home, and explaining that what I was calling cramps were labor contractions. I did go home around noon, after I knew everything was sent off to corporate. Lou and I were still working on getting the seminar mailings stamped and labeled, and off to the post office. I made dinner and cleaned up, because the contractions were still pretty far apart. Around 6pm we decided we should go over to the hospital. Astrid, our new nanny-to-be came with us, and hung out for support. They processed me, checked me out, and then said I had a long way to go, and sent me home with some sleeping pills saying that I’d probably be back the next day. That was fine with me, because I really didn’t want our baby born exactly on the one-year anniversary of her grandfather’s death.

So I took the little pills, and went to bed around 8pm. But I think they gave me the wrong little pills because there was no sleeping. The contractions just got stronger and faster and faster. Lou called the doctor’s office and told them the timing and they said to go right in. Easier said than done. I couldn’t stand up straight to walk, and our bedroom was on the second floor. I literally crawled on my hands and knees down the stairs and to the garage. I couldn’t even sit upright, I was so cramped and bunched up. We got to the hospital around 10pm, but must have been one of many people going into labor just at that time, because I was curled up in a wheelchair stuck in the hall waiting by myself for a long time. Lou had to go move the car, and there were no nurses available to help me. They finally took me to a room, and I was begging for an epidural, but there was only one person who could do it, and they were busy with an emergency C-section. I was not prepared to go through labor and delivery without drugs. We went to the birthing classes, but did not develop the breathing skills to deal with a natural childbirth. Lou thought the classes were ridiculous, but we were required to attend. He was really annoyed that all the focus was on the mother. He told the instructor that the classes really should incorporate more of the effect on the fathers and the impact of pregnancy and childbirth on the men. She was polite and acknowledged that he had a point, but that would probably be great for a different course from the childbirth classes we were in. So needless to say, he wasn’t thrilled about learning any of the coaching skills.

Eventually, the anesthesiologist did come by, but said I was too far along to get an epidural. I begged and pleaded, and she finally gave in. What a difference. There was no pain at all, and I had to look at a monitor to see when a contraction was happening. But she didn’t give me a full dose, and the drugs wore off pretty quickly. I’m usually the quiet one, but I found out I was a screamer. They probably heard me in New York when the doctor stuck this plunger thing up me to pull her out. The worst thing was that it lost suction and popped off her head, and they shoved it back up there again. This was the first time Lou had ever met my doctor, and here he was between my spread open legs while he tried to Roto Rooter out the baby. He really had been great, and I’m sure he’s delivered thousands of babies and heard it and seen it all.

Lou brought the video camera we purchased for recording the new baby’s life, and had video taped us when we went to the hospital the first time, and then again after they had the baby cleaned up. Neither of us wanted to videotape the actual birth. Just as well, because when he saw what came out of me along with the baby, he was really grossed out. He’s still talking about that… it will take a while for that to get out of his brain when he thinks of or sees me down there. I didn’t look at that stuff – I just focused on the baby, who was absolutely beautiful.

038021 Lou and anjelica

Lou with Anjelica still in the hospital – first day as a Dad

The next day, Lou came to visit, and brought the baby a little Dumbo elephant stuffed animal as her first present from her Daddy. I think we were both tired and exhausted from the late night, because when I mentioned that I had talked to my mom and sisters on the phone that morning, he was upset that they didn’t call him, and sarcastically asked, “What am I? Chopped Liver?” I pointed out that his mother didn’t call me at the hospital, either. But that didn’t seem to matter. He’s just hung up on the fact that people give all the attention to the baby and the mother and that nobody seems to care about the father. I guess he has a point, but I don’t think it’s personal. My friend from HP, Sandy and her husband came to visit, and brought some champagne and my very favorite treat: brownies. We had to drink the champagne out of foam coffee cups, but it was fun. I only got to have one brownie, though, because as soon as they left, Lou nabbed the brownies, and threw them in the trash, saying, “You don’t need these.”  I said I wasn’t planning on eating them all at once by myself, and that I would have liked to share them with the nurses. I didn’t make a big deal out of it, but I was really upset. They were mine, not his to throw away. And I’m not a fat pig, either; I gained 26 pounds total while pregnant. I don’t know if it was the hormones, or exhaustion, but I ended up in tears after he left.

In the middle of the night, they brought me the baby to breastfeed. I woke up hours later with her still sleeping in my arms. I was really tired, and my insurance would have let me stay another night, since she was born after midnight on the first night, that day I was in labor didn’t really count toward their maximum allowed. But Lou had to go to his client in PA, and he wanted me to come home before he left. So we checked out that Sunday morning. When the nurse came to fill out the birth certificate information, she asked how to spell the name, and Lou answered, “A-N-J-E-L-I-C-A.” I asked, “J?” He said, “Yes, like Anjelica Houston.” We had agreed to the name, but never talked about spelling. I always assumed we would spell it with a G, like most people do. The J’s are rare. I’m used to people constantly spelling my name incorrectly, and told Lou that she’ll have to correct people her entire life. He insisted on using J anyway. I picked out (and got to specify the spelling of) her middle name, Sierra, which literally means mountains, but for me, her name defines that she is an Earth Angel.

We went home, and found that our next-door neighbors had decorated the mailbox and outside the house and made some food for dinner. It was really nice, and I appreciated it. It was a beautiful day and Lou wanted us to sit out in the backyard when I put
the baby down for a nap. I wanted to lie down too, and didn’t really want to go sit outside, but agreed after I could see he was so

Anjelica going down for a nap with Dumbo on her first day home

Anjelica going down for a nap with Dumbo on her first day home

disappointed when I hesitated. We tested to make sure the monitor worked ok in the yard, and it was fine, so he was right that it would be no different. I think it is going to take a while for him to get used to taking care of a baby though, because when she woke up, and cried, I went to get up, and he told me to sit down. I thought he was going to go get her, but he just turned off the monitor and said, “OK, we know she’s crying now.” He thinks that picking up a crying baby is just teaching them to cry. I totally disagree. At this age, you are teaching them that they are safe and can trust you to be there for them to take care of their needs. I got up anyway and said I wasn’t going to let her cry. I don’t care what he thinks.

He was just upset because we didn’t have a lot of time before he had to leave to go to PA. He is clueless as to what my body went through to have this child. He actually asked me to pack his suitcase for him. I was really tired, and was going to be home alone. I wished I was still in the hospital, or that I had someone staying at the house with me. People offered, but Lou didn’t want anyone from the family staying here. We don’t even have a guest room, so in his opinion they would just be in the way, and would probably not be much help anyway.

Jo and Anjelica first day home

Jo and Anjelica first day home

But I really needed help. I packed for him, and he took off for PA, and I was left home alone on my first night. Taking care of the baby was easy. Walking up and down the stairs between her room and mine was the problem. I was tired, but was doing ok, until I felt a sharp pain and started heavily bleeding. I couldn’t tell if I was bleeding from the inside or on the outside. I called the doctor, and he said to just lay down and give it time to see if it stopped on its own, and that it could be a number of things but not to panic. Easier said than done. I just stayed downstairs on the family room couch with Anjelica so I didn’t have to keep getting up. When Lou finally called to check in on me, I broke down crying when I told him about the bleeding. He called Astrid, and asked her to work and spend the night with me to help with the baby. She watched Anjelica the next morning while my neighbor drove me to the doctor’s office to see what was going on. My episiotomy stitches had ripped out, which he’d never seen happen to anyone before. He decided that it was better to leave it be rather than try to repair it. I have no idea what I’m going to look like down there now.

I stopped bleeding, and could handle the second night on my own. Despite the fact that Lou didn’t want a bassinette in our bedroom, I borrowed one from one of my managers at work. Lou’s not even home half of the time to be bothered by a baby in the room, so he’ll just have to deal with it for a little while. I tried before she was born, but it didn’t work out. I had borrowed this little portable crib that’s been in my family forever. I stripped, repainted, and put a new mattress in it. I think I did a great job, and it is fine, but Lou insists it is too old and not safe. So it is in our attic now. Maybe the next person in my family to have a baby can use it. At least I do have Anjelica sleeping upstairs… for now, anyway.

August 1993

never know what kind of a moodAugust – 1993
I’m huge, but I really have done well in keeping my weight on track. I’m almost to the 25 pounds minimum you’re supposed to gain when pregnant. We think it’s a girl based on the ultrasound; I wanted to know because I’d rather be able to really plan. We’re going rather neutral with the colors and decorations, but would be very surprised if the baby is a boy. My main concern is that we get the baby’s room ready. I always assumed that we’d just take my vanity out of the bedroom across the hall from ours, and convert my changing room into a nursery. Lou insists that the baby’s room be downstairs instead. He says it will give the child a sense of more independence. I really don’t agree and do not want that. I know that with the monitors you can easily hear, but it is just so far away from our room, I just don’t like it. And I know I’m going to be the one who will be getting up in the middle of the night anyway. I didn’t win that debate, though, so now he is repairing the walls and getting ready to paint. I just hope I don’t go early with delivery.

We have a lot of stuff from my baby shower. My two girlfriends from Playtex and HP worked together on it, and it was really nice. My parents and sister, and Mia came to surprise me. I acted surprised, anyway. Someone said something to me in a phone conversation about missing my party, and I mentioned the comment to Lou, not realizing that he may have known about the party, also. He got irritated that the individual was so careless, and then told me all the details, including who my surprise out of town guests would be, and said I should just act surprised. I kind of wish he had acted like he didn’t know anything either instead of spilling all the beans.

He says that he’s getting used to the idea of having a baby, but it still seems like he is just down or grumpy so much of the time now. I try to do what I can to help out and make it easier for him. I just never know what kind of mood he’s going to be in, so it’s hard to be excited about baby stuff in front of him when I don’t know how he’ll react when I talk about it.

We hired a Nanny / Office Assistant, which lasted just about one month. She was really young, and wasn’t really mature enough at 19 to handle the responsibilities. We’ve been working on getting together a mailing list to do a teamwork and production sequencing seminar on our own, so she was working with Lou on that. There’s no baby yet, so all of her time is with him in the office. Anyway, one day she told Lou she wasn’t feeling well, and wanted to go home. He told her that she should tough it out and stay. She went home anyway, and that was it for her employment. Toughing it out wasn’t so freaking tough anyway. I came home from work one day and found her laying out on the floor propped up with pillow reading off names and addresses to Lou while he typed them into the mailing list database. They were laughing and giggling the whole time, especially because she couldn’t pronounce Aurora, Illinois. So Lou decided he wanted to name our baby Aurora. He was doing some repairs to the front steps to the house, and had to put down new concrete. I came home to find he had engraved into the concrete his initials, my initials, the nanny/secretary’s initials, and the name Aurora. I have to admit I was happy when she stormed out on him and quit. And I was very happy when we had a water pipe leak and Lou had to rip up the concrete again, and relay it with no initials. The Aurora name idea is a mute point as well. That was not going to happen. We hired a new girl, who is very sweet, and a very hard worker. I think she will do great. We don’t pay that much, considering what we are asking them to do, but we are offering to help with college classes if she wants to go forward with her education. She wants to be a singer, so I don’t know how long she’ll actually be with us.

May 1993

im not fat I really think I’m going to end up being a single mom. Lou is miserable and depressed.

In my mind, we have everything. We each have masters degrees, great careers, financial security, a wonderful home, our book is going to be published, and best of all, we have what seems like a very healthy, much wanted baby on the way. And yet, he’s been really quiet and distant and cold lately, and overall depressed. For a long time, he’s refused to have intercourse with me, saying that it’s because there is a baby in there. I asked what’s wrong enough times that he finally explained how miserable he is. He says that his beautiful wife’s body is no longer attractive, but is just a house for a baby, and that he is sure that I am going to be like all the other women and be fat after I give birth. I assured him that I had no desire to be fat, and that I’ve always been able to stay thin, and that I have only gained the minimum weight that I am supposed to put on for a healthy pregnancy. I’m not loading on tons of extra weight with the pregnancy excuse. But he doesn’t believe me, and said that even if I am somehow able to be thin again, all he sees ahead is “a life of crummyness.” I agreed that life will be different, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be wonderful. I told him that the lives our parents lead didn’t determine what we had in store for ourselves, and that we have control over what our family will be like. Just because he saw his father miserable didn’t mean that he will be miserable also. And the fact that his father had a family does not mean that was why he was miserable in the first place.

I tried to be understanding and supportive. I tried not to take it personally when he shared his fears that he would end up with a fat, ugly wife, and that he would have a crummy life. But then, he said that it was all my fault. He said that I pressured him to get pregnant, and that he didn’t want to have a baby. He said I had just hammered him on the topic until he gave in. I was neither understanding nor supportive of that statement. How can he possibly think this is true? That is bullshit, and he knows it. Yet he was in my face saying it was all my idea and responsibility that we are having a baby. There was never a question in our lives together that we would have children, it was just a matter of when. Once we both had our educations, and good careers, and I was thirty, it was the right time, and I know for a fact that we decided together to have a baby. I remember sitting in the backyard having the conversation about it, and him saying that we should do it, and for me to make an appointment with a doctor to get checked out. I didn’t talk him into it. I didn’t argue or plead or even hint for that matter. It was a natural decision just like any other decision we have ever made together. Like what color to paint the walls, or what furniture to buy, or where to invest our savings. I know he was fine with the decision to get pregnant until it actually happened. The moment I showed him the results of the pregnancy test was the first time the reality hit him. I think his warped imagination has pieced together a horrific future; that doesn’t have to be the reality of life. It certainly isn’t my reality.

But now, my imagination is piecing together a future as a single mother. I know he is going to leave me, and I wouldn’t stop him. He says he will not leave, but I don’t want to be in a miserable marriage. I don’t want to live a miserable life. In my heart am so happy about having this baby, but now I can’t possibly be happy in my marriage. I don’t know what I am supposed to do. I can’t, and wouldn’t change the fact that I’m pregnant. I can’t help him if I am the problem. Lou dumped all this on me, and I am left to deal with it alone. There is absolutely nobody who I can talk to about this. All I can do is prove that I can still be a good wife to him even with a child.

March 1993

pregnauseaVacation while pregnant was a bit of a bust, and it was more than a little scary flying home on the day the World Trade Center was bombed. Nassau was chilly and rainy, so we spent most of our time in the casino instead of on the beach. The cigarette smoke in the casino really made me queasy, but luckily I didn’t throw up during the trip. Last time I puked was in the Mercedes into a bag, and it didn’t get on anything, but Lou swears the car still stinks because of it.

He actually believes I have some control over the pregnancy nausea, like I do it on purpose to annoy him or something. Same logic applies to my neck pain and headaches. I have pain, and he’s the one who gets grumpy and irritable. Most of the time I don’t let it show that I have any pain. We’ve had heart to heart discussions about it, and he says that he can always tell anyway, and I say I can always tell that he’s upset by it. He says he knows I don’t have the pain on purpose, but it still gets to him, and that it just isn’t any fun being around someone who is in pain. I don’t know what to say when he tells me this. I try not to cry, because he hates that, but it is so difficult for me because I can’t fix it. I can’t seem to fix the neck problem, and so I can’t fix the pain, and I can’t change that it sometimes shows that I have pain, and I can’t fix that it affects him. Even though I’m not bitchy and complaining, I am sure that it is a drag to be around me when my neck hurts or I have a headache. I really can understand that. So I do my best to hide it and not let it affect either one of us. I go to work, I do all the housework and cooking, and when he wants to have sex, I’ve never said the clichéd, “Not tonight, dear I have a headache.” I try to not take any meds unless I am done with everything that has to be done for the day, so I can just rest. I can’t take anything but Tylenol for pain now anyway. Actually, the pregnancy hormones seem to be helping with my muscle spasms. Maybe I should stay pregnant.

I’m really just starting to show now, and my boobs are getting a little bigger. I like the bigger boobs part. The doctor says everything seems good with the baby and my weight. I’m hoping that Lou will go to the next appointment with me and be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat. It’s fast, and I think that means that it’s probably a girl. We’re kicking around names, and I like Angel for a girl. I have a collection of angels, and Louie calls me Angel sometimes. I don’t have strong opinions for boy names. Lou doesn’t want a Louis William Joy IV. In fact, he is scared that any boy in the family will carry a curse of some sort. I say that’s silly, but I still don’t push for details on this alleged curse, but he talks in terms of his father’s alcohol addiction, cheating and lying. When they did an autopsy, in addition to cancer, they found he’d pretty much killed his liver. Lou is far from an alcoholic. We hardly ever drink; it’s an event to get a six-pack of beer, and even that lasts for quite a while. But he says that he could see himself becoming easily addicted. When he smoked pot in high school, he didn’t just get high occasionally; he got high first thing in the morning, and all day, and all night long. So he is very careful with alcohol to not get into the habit of drinking regularly. That’s probably what got him on academic warning early in college, actually. But by the time we met, after he came back from taking time off from school to get money to pay for it, he really took it all seriously, and he was the most sober person at any party.

As far as the cheating and lying goes, he doesn’t talk about that as it applies to himself. I have my own internal quiet dialog about it, and I don’t think he’s any different from his father there, either. But I don’t think it is a curse. I think it is a choice. I do what I can to make him happy to just be with me, but I look at him when we are quiet, and I don’t think he is happy at all. So often he is so far away, and lost in his own world. I made the mistake of commenting on that once, and he freaked out, taking it as an insult of some sort. He is still upset with a teacher that commented on the same thing and called him a daydreamer, lost in his own little world and that he needed to rejoin the rest of the class. I wasn’t trying to be hurtful; it was simply an observation. He sits alone, and I can see he’s thinking, but he’s making all these dramatic facial expressions, and his head and lips are moving. There’s no sound; it is kind of like watching a television on mute. Sometimes it looks like he’s having a conversation, other times struggling with different alternatives, and often it looks like an argument. He has told me that before he has an important meeting, he does go through a mock conversation in his mind. I find I do that kind of thing more often after the fact. I’m usually thinking about the brilliant or strong thing I should have said instead of being quiet or agreeable. I don’t think my lips move though. I’ve learned not to call him on any of his visual animations, and just ask what he’s thinking about. Sometimes he tells me, and sometimes he says, “Nothing,” which is obviously not the case, but it’s his prerogative to keep his thoughts to himself. I do it all the time. But then, he isn’t typically asking what I’m thinking of either.

I keep my journal to myself, and he doesn’t even realize I have one. I don’t know who I’m writing to. Maybe it is to my imaginary childhood friend, named Gunky. Gunky understands and doesn’t get bored when I ramble on like this, and certainly doesn’t judge or repeat what I say. Hah – I never thought about that before. Sounds more than a little odd at this age. Just writing to a diary should be my perspective, but I feel like I am writing to someone who cares about my life, my feelings, and who gives me some perspective and feedback. I don’t have any real people in my world anymore who would do that. I used to have friends like Kathy, Paul, Bruce, and Alan that I wrote long letters to, and sometimes they even wrote back with ramblings on about their world, and some insights to what I had said. But I’ve totally lost track of Kathy. Last time I got in touch with Paul was when we lived in North Carolina, and he was happily married and living in the Florida Keys. Bruce got married, and had been in serious relationships for a long time, so I’ve distanced myself so I do not get in the way of his happiness by complicating life. Last time I talked to Alan, he was planning on getting married. I had written to him several times after that, but he never wrote back. I sent one last card acknowledging that fact, and I wished him a good and happy life. It killed me, knowing I had lost the last bit of him I had left in my life. I know he told his fiancé about our past relationship, so I imagine I’m unwelcome as a friend now. Truth is, I haven’t cheated on Lou for years and years now. And I would never want to interfere with anyone’s happy marriage. I do wish I could still have their friendships though. I have friends at work but that’s about it. We rarely see Nico and Mia. It’s always fun, and I know they would do anything for us. But what is it when you only see your closest friends a couple times a year at most? Even my family is far away, even though it’s only a few hours’ drive, I hardly ever see them. And nobody calls anyone. I’ve finally gotten used to the fact that my birthday can come and go and Lou’s the only one who seems to acknowledge it. Actually, that’s not true, in the office we are all pretty good about recognizing each other’s birthdays with a little cake and a card passed around for signatures. I’ve usually had a close girlfriend at work, when I was at Playtex, and now at HP. We have fun during the day, but we don’t go out after hours or call to chat on the phone, and I’m certainly not spilling my guts with my personal life issues.

January 1993

nothomeforthehoildaysHappy New Year. I am so excited, we are finally pregnant. It took over four months, but we did it around Thanksgiving. I looked like a turkey lying on the floor with my legs up in the air trying to percolate. The baby is due on August 18th. So he or she will be a Leo, like me. I’ve already read just about all of the pregnancy books I’ve got. I know I’m a nerd, but I like to understand what’s going on. I’m hoping that we can find out the gender, too. My ob-gyn is a nice older gentleman, who probably isn’t far from retirement. I like him though because he is really sweet and kind. Louie couldn’t go with me for the first visit, but I think he will like the doctor, too.

We had to find our dog, Lenny, a new home. I know we didn’t have him very long, but I cried when he left. He’ll be happier, though, since he’s going to a nice place where they will allow him in the house. When Louie decided to get rid of the dog, I reminded him that this was supposed to be a trial run for a baby, and that we couldn’t just give the baby away when it was inconvenient. He didn’t appreciate the comparison, and said this was obviously different. We didn’t know we were pregnant then, but soon found out.

I just about danced out of the bathroom to show Lou the home pregnancy test results. I guess I expected his reaction to be like mine, since we had been trying for so long. But he just kind of said, “Oh,” and set aside the test stick. Dumfounded by his response, I asked back, “Oh?” He then plainly, and quite dully stated, “Congratulations. I don’t know what else you expect me to say.” He said that he had to go, gave me a quick hug and a peck and left for PA for the week. Maybe he was just in shock. I celebrated by myself that night with a toast orange juice with a very light ceremonial splash of vodka as my last alcohol for a long time. We’ve planned a trip to Paradise Island in the Bahamas next month, so we can have our last DINK (Double Income No Kids) vacation together before I get too big. I started off the pregnancy at 120 pounds, and am in good shape from working out, so I still should look good in a bathing suit.

I don’t want my boss to find out that I’m pregnant yet, but I had to tell a couple friends at work so they would cover for me when I got sick. One person figured it out at the department Christmas party when she caught me at the bar ordering a Virgin Bloody Mary. I’ll be glad when everyone knows, actually. I haven’t even told my family yet. We seldom get to visit them for Christmas or other holidays. My parents don’t make a big deal about it, but I know they want me to come home more often. Problem is that now that we have a house, Lou likes to be in our own home for the holidays. Especially for Christmas, since that’s his birthday. I don’t blame him, but I wish we lived closer so we could compromise a bit more. I feel guilty always telling my family that I’m not coming home, but if I force it and he’s not happy, then I can’t enjoy the visit either. So it’s a no win for me. It’s just easier to plan to visit when there’s something else going on that Lou can look forward to. We’ve usually go visit in the Spring when there are fraternity and Union College reunion functions that we can attend at the same time. One of the best visits we had in Schenectady was to go to Bruce’s wedding. We didn’t know anybody at the reception, and everyone else at our table was pretty much a misfit. We all got along great and laughed, drank, and danced all night long. It was absolutely the best time we have ever had.

On the last trip we made to New York, we outlined an entire book. The consulting business was slowing down, and Lou just didn’t have as much work, and was getting pretty depressed about the future and so we were talking about what he should do next. He has written several articles for trade magazines in the past, and has done lots of speaking engagements through APICS, but really wanted to be published in Harvard Business Review. Most of the consulting work was done using teams to solve problems and implement solutions, and he developed a system to use a pull methodology for custom manufacturing, and named it Production Sequencing. I suggested that instead of just trying to get in HBR, he should write a book. He thought that I was crazy, that he could never get a book published. But we decided to give it a try anyway. So on a drive up and back from Schenectady, we wrote a description of a book, and laid out all the chapters and an outlined a proposal. We decided to make it a fictional business novel that can be used for training and team development. I think it is an awesome idea, and believe that having a book published will establish him as an expert in teamwork and production planning, and that will bring in plenty of work. Plus, he can use his own book as a training tool for his clients when he sets up teams. It’s a winner in so many ways. Right now, he only has his past clients and word of mouth to demonstrate his expertise.

He hasn’t been working as much, so now he writes instead. Every day he sets a goal for how many words he’ll get done. Each night, I edit the work, and we plan out exactly what will be in the next part of the story. His friend from high school is illustrating the book and helping with editing and general feedback and suggestions. He is an awesome artist, and super intelligent, and we are so lucky that he wants to work with us, but Lou gets frustrated when he calls his buddy and his wife says he can’t come to the phone because he’s giving the baby a bath or doing something with their child. Lou thinks that she doesn’t like him because she can tell that he knows she’s controlling and taking advantage of her husband because she’s just lazy. However, I’ve never once heard him complain about taking care of their child. I imagine they share responsibilities, and it just seems lopsided to Lou because he can’t talk to his friend whenever he wants. I don’t think we are around them enough to know what life is really like.

October 1992

friendshipisoverWe didn’t intend to get a dog, yet we now have a dog. Our neighbor found a stray and convinced us to take it in. We left a notice at the animal shelter, but so far, nobody has claimed him. We figured that it would be good practice for us to prepare for a child in our lives. We named the dog Lenny, after the title character in one of our favorite movies, Zelig. It’s a Woody Allen movie, where Leonard Zelig had a personality disorder that made him assume the same characteristics as people he was around, so they called him the chameleon.

We got Lenny a doghouse, and he stays outside. I’d let him in, and clean up after him, but Lou is adamant that dogs are meant to be, and are happiest when kept outdoors. When he was a kid, the family had a dog they named Lucky, and he was just fine outside. I guess he was out there enough to figure out how to escape from his chain, and he never was found again. Hopefully he was Lucky enough to find a new home. Lenny is part Husky, and part who knows what. He’s starting to learn tricks, and good behavior, and loves to go to the park with us to run around and fetch. Fortunately, he isn’t much of a barker. I just need to figure out how to get him to stop digging holes in the backyard. Lou ended up having to make a concrete pad to put his doghouse and a stake to attach a line. Lou takes such good care of the yard and the gardens, and the dog simply doesn’t understand that the digging is wrong. I think the digging is because he’s lonely and needs companionship of another dog or people. If we could bring him inside to hang out with us when we are there, I bet he would do fine when he was outside. That’s not going to happen, though.

Some friends of ours ended up getting a couple of unplanned dogs as well. Well, they are former friends, at this point. Lou had gotten into a dispute with them after his obsession with the wife became known to the husband, who complained and asked him to stop. They had several arguments, ending with them telling him to stop any further contact, and informing him they had installed a security system and now had guard dogs at their home. I honestly don’t know all the details, and it is probably better that way.

September 1992

I am so glad to be home. No stress. No arguments. No fighting.

#madskills

#madskills

We got a call from the VA hospital on Long Island saying that Lou’s father was in intensive care, and was not doing well. He had named Lou as his next of kin and as the person who should make medical decisions for him if he were unable. We hadn’t spoken to anyone in his family in quite a long time. He stopped talking to his dad because he wouldn’t have a serious honest conversation about their past and the lies and pain. I can’t even remember why he stopped talking to his mother and sister this time. But all the same, his father was on his deathbed and wanted to see his son, and asked the nurse to call. Lou took the information and lay down to sleep again. He didn’t want to go, and told me he would think about it the next day. But the hospital called again, looking for permission to administer treatment to alleviate the fluid that was building up or something. This time, I talked to the nurse to find out more details, and told her to tell him that his son and daughter-in-law were on their way. I didn’t care that Lou didn’t want to go. If I let him stay home, and his father died alone, and Lou didn’t see him when he had the chance, he would regret it someday. And I would feel responsible that I didn’t make him do it. I told him I was going by myself even if he wouldn’t go. Nobody should be alone in a time like that. I spent time with his mother without him when she had cancer surgery. She totally disliked me before then, but after that, she was always nice to me, even when she was feuding with Lou. Anyway, Lou conceded to making the drive from Delaware that night to see his father.

Before we left the house, we called his sister, Debra and her husband, Bill. She wasn’t talking to her parents either, and had even less interest than Lou did in going to see her father. But I think Bill talked her into it. They had a baby that her parents had never even seen. Once we got on the road, the urgency finally kicked in, and Lou was in a panic that we wouldn’t get there in time. About 3 hours later, we met up with Deb and Bill at the hospital, and went to the ICU. His father was still alive, but not awake and not responsive. The nurse said that they had found cancer in him again, and that it seemed his organs were slowly shutting down, and his abdomen was swelling up with fluids. Other than that, though, I must say he looked pretty good. He was very tan and his body appeared quite strong and healthy. We learned later that he was working as a grounds keeper and doing maintenance for a church.

Lou and I talked to him quietly, and I held his dad’s hand and stroked his hair and arm, and tried to moisten his lips so they didn’t dry too much. Bill was really good at talking upbeat and loudly to him to try to get a response, but there was none. Debra was doing her very best just by being there. She stayed in the room, but kept her distance both physically and emotionally. She had been essentially abandoned by the dying man both physically and emotionally most of her life. I give her credit for being there, and yet not being phony about her emotions.

We called Lou’s mother, and explained that her ex-husband was probably not going to live much longer. She told us that she had seen him recently, and was wondering how he was doing. She decided not to come to the hospital since he wasn’t conscious anyway, and personally, she wanted to remember him as he was, rather than dying in the hospital bed. I guess they ended up being good friends to each other over the past few years. They had even been joking around about his being sick, and how he shouldn’t buy any green bananas.

He was hooked up to monitors; we just watched his body slowly shutting down. It was hard not to stare at the heart rate and blood pressure stats dropping. Bill had a beeper on his belt that went off once in a while. I have never known anyone with a beeper, and had thought only drug dealers used them, so I jokingly asked if he had to meet his connection. Wrong thing to say. I was just trying to be light during a tense time. I heard about that comment later.

Eventually, his stats dropped very, very low. I was still holding his hand, which was clasped tightly around mine, even though he was not conscious. Lou and Bill were on the side of the bed also, and Deb was at the foot of the bed. He then opened his eyes, and slowly and deliberately looked around the bed at each of us. Even though he didn’t say anything, he appeared to have clarity and recognition in his eyes. We told him that we were all there with him, and that we loved him, and that it was ok to let go and be at peace. He very peacefully closed his eyes and the stats dropped and dropped until the solid line and steady beep indicated his heart and breathing had stopped.

That was the end of the calm and peace, because suddenly there were alarms going off, and out of nowhere, came what seemed like a dozen doctors and nurses jumping in the room with equipment and insisting that we clear out of the room because it was a code blue. I practically had to scream at them to leave him alone because he was DNR. I don’t know why the unit nurses didn’t step in. They were the ones who had shown us his card, where he gave his preferences for treatment and specifically requested for them to let him go. Personally, I think the interns and doctors enjoyed the excitement of the crash. Just as quickly as they had come, they all dejectedly disappeared, and the ICU was quiet again.

We went out to dinner with Deb and Bill that night and talked about what we should do. The nurses gave us his few possessions, and his home address, which sadly, none of us knew. He had an old car, and lived in an apartment near the church. Debra said she really didn’t want any of his things. We said we would bring the car to his mother so she could sell it for past alimony due her.

Lou and I had to go on our own to his father’s apartment to take care of his belongings. At first, Debra wanted nothing to do with anything of his.  Later, when we called from a pay phone at the beach we had stopped at to relax and reflect, she told Lou that for the sake of her child, she wanted what was due her, and would meet us at the apartment to “clean out” the place. That phrase sent Lou over the edge, and he reamed her out for being disrespectful and picking over the paltry few remains of his life for financial gain. It was a moot point because their father literally had nothing but the old car we gave their mother.  They had a screaming fight over the phone, ending with her saying she would not be going to the funeral.  It seemed that was going to be the end of it, but later, Debra and Bill showed up at his mother’s front door with the grandchild she had never seen. His mom, who had just been talking with Lou about how disgusted they both were by Deb’s attitude, was quite skilled at building, burying and unearthing grudges, resentments, and feuds spontaneously, and welcomed them with open arms, excitedly doting over both her grandchild and daughter. She didn’t notice the anger on Lou’s face, and his sister’s smirk of satisfaction with her game changing move. Lou immediately tried to regain control, and ordered them to leave the house. Deb rightly stated that it was not his house, and he could not tell her what to do. Their argument grew more heated about the whole situation with their father’s estate and each other’s behaviors and intentions, and Bill stepped in between them to tell Lou to back off.  Lou grabbed him by the shirt, which ripped apart in his fist. Sensing they were about to start throwing punches, I covered my ears and yelled for them to just stop it, and stormed out of the house. I hoped that would startle them out of the physical altercation, but even if it didn’t, I could not tolerate being around all that anger one minute longer. I walked down the dark street and sat on the curb where I would not be easily spotted, but could still see the front of the house. It was a long time before I saw Deb and Bill leave. I waited awhile longer, expecting Lou to look for me, and eventually went back to the house on my own. Lou’s mother was distraught and torn because she wanted to resume having a relationship with both her children and families, but Lou was fuming that she would even consider forgiving Deb’s behavior. In the end, Debra did not attend her father’s wake, funeral, or burial, although most of the New Jersey relatives that his dad had been estranged from for years came to pay their respects.

August 1992

30alreadyWe’re officially trying to get pregnant, now. We were recently sitting out in the backyard, getting some sun, and talking about my 30th birthday that was coming up at the end of July. I can’t believe thirty is already here. I still always see myself as young, maybe because Lou is five years older than me. We’ve always talked about wanting to have a family, but have never done anything about it. I’m not on the pill, so it could have happened many times by now, but it hasn’t. I would love to have a big family. I envision a dining room table loaded with four kids, and then later having big family holidays together with spouses and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Lou’s not so sure on the number, but he does want to have children. I know people wait longer to have kids now, but I told Lou that if we still wanted to have kids, then we should start thinking about acting soon. He agreed, and said I should go to the OB-Gyn for a checkup and make sure that I’m in good health. My health is fine. I just have the neck problem, but it doesn’t seem like I can do anything much about that. I had the problem with my knee, but that somehow became less of a bother after I hurt my neck and I could not possibly carry a heavy backpack. So we got the medical go-ahead to try to get pregnant. I am really excited about the future.

February 1992

howcanItellI thought we were going on an exciting adventure. We were invited to do production planning and sequencing presentations at conferences in Queretaro, Mexico and Mexico City, all expenses paid by the client. But on the flight down, Lou was distant. I asked what was wrong, and he said, “Nothing, why?” I said that I’d been feeling that he was far away for a while now. He hadn’t been close or intimate with me lately, and ignoring the chill I felt sitting close on the airplane was unbearable. Then he told me that all he could do was think about another woman just about all the time. And he told me that he really only wanted to be with her, and just wasn’t feeling attracted to me. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to bolt, but was trapped on the airplane stuck by his side for hours. I tried not to cry, but tears came anyway. I wiped them away, and did my best to hide my eyes and my face with my hand so nobody could see. Lou was irritated that people would notice, and asked how he could tell me things if I was going to get upset like that. I asked him if he was trying to tell me that he wanted to leave me. He said that he wasn’t, but he was just being honest about how he felt. I was quiet. He went to sleep. It was a long plane ride for me. I don’t think I have ever been so sad in my life.

He seemed fine through the whole trip. I think I cried myself to sleep every night. We were in Queretaro first, and stayed at this resort called the Hacienda Hotel Jurica. It was really a beautiful remote place with lots of gardens and beautiful buildings and a fine restaurant. Then we went to Mexico City, and stayed at the Century Hotel right in the middle of the city. We had seen a picture of the hotel that deceptively made it appear to be quite nice. The hotel was really tall but really thin. Maybe two rooms deep at the most. The seemingly beautiful pool on the brochure picture was actually on the roof, and only slightly larger than our hot tub. If you were brave enough to venture near the railing, you could see straight down to the street below. If you leaned over at all, a good wind could easily blow you off the roof. The tiny hotel room was bizarre, with rails on the ceiling above the bed, and the bathtub was round and really deep. It was just as well that we weren’t having sex, because the bed was awful. There was a tiny lounge just off the lobby with a band blaring loud, cheesy music. Luckily, we didn’t have to spend much time there, as the conference itself was at the Nikko Hotel, which was very modern and sleek, and in comparison, made our accomodations seem much like the prostitute-ridden Hotel Dixie my parents booked to save money on our family overnight stays in Manhatten.

We’ve had sex since we got back, but I was self-conscious, and nervous with my own husband. He just doesn’t seem to have a clue how it makes me feel to know that he’s obsessed with another woman, and actually told me he didn’t even want to be with me. He now says I should just forget about it all and go back to normal. But I don’t know how to do that. I just feel empty, and like I’m always on the verge of tears. My chest feels heavy, and it’s like my heart literally aches.

I’m glad I have my job at HP, because that keeps me busy, and I have a lot of fun with the people at work. I’ve also been working out at Gold’s gym and started on a program with a trainer to lose body fat. I’m not really losing weight, so much as toning and changing my percentage of lean muscle tissue. Lou goes to the gym all the time, and I haven’t really been diligent about it until now.

July 1991

#HowIQuitI safely landed at Hewlett Packard in Avondale, PA in the Finance department; almost didn’t get here. I had my job offer at the Franklin Mint, and an opportunity to go back to Playtex in the computer operations department, and then I had an offer to come here to Hewlett Packard, but only working in the Information Technology group. The position and money were better at the Mint, but I decided to go with HP anyway. I was honest about my intentions, and promised I would work hard and they would get the most out of me while I was in IT, but that I would be looking to transfer into Finance as soon as possible. I made another promise, too. After I interviewed for the job at HP, I went to the mall, and was sitting by the fountain, having a diet coke and a cigarette like I typically do on the rare occasion when I get a chance to get out of the house on my own for a little while. I tossed a coin in the fountain and made a vow that if I got hired at HP, I would quit smoking. I felt like it was a pact with God, so as soon as I started working at HP, I stopped smoking. It was the smart thing to do anyway, and was pretty easy since I seldom smoked. Through all these years, Lou never once noticed the smell of cigarettes on me.

I did kind of cheat by smoking though graduation until I actually started work. Lou and my good friend from Playtex and her husband came to my graduation. Unfortunately, Louie cut out immediately after the ceremony to head up to Wilkes Barre because he had work the next day, so just the three of us went out to dinner afterward to celebrate. I was disappointed Lou didn’t take the time to at least stay with us for dinner. Perhaps he had more compelling plans that evening. I don’t think he’s had love affairs, or second families or anything like that. I just know that he’s had lots of opportunities to mess around while he’s away, and that he likes to flirt. It seems like he’s never in his hotel room when I call, either. And he doesn’t come back from his trips all horny like I think he would if he wasn’t having sex somewhere else. And I still have that one woman’s sock that isn’t mine. I don’t know why I keep it. At first I thought I would dramatically pull it out and confront him with the evidence. But I know he would just say I was nuts to try to prove his guilt with a lone random sock.   I haven’t cheated on him in years, and I haven’t been looking for it either. I never actually looked for it to happen when it did, perhaps it was just an inappropriate extension of friendships that I wished could be more; the best I could do given the fact I was married. I never had any plans to leave him, so I don’t really know what the point was for me. I never really felt all that guilty about it either, which is weird, because I should. But I would often wake from sleep with a silent cry out for help…. for Bruce…for Alan… for Paul… for someone to save me. Save me from what, I don’t know, but sometimes my subconscious screamed for help, and I would awaken and almost expect a silent cosmic answer that someone was coming to my rescue. Lou never suspected anything, and I never wanted him to know. I still can’t believe he told me about that woman at the hospital, and about the “hand jobs” in PA. I can’t help but think about it every time he goes up north. And he goes just about every week. If I’m not busy, I find myself thinking about it constantly when he’s away. Is it my own guilt coming from the subconscious because I don’t consciously feel guilty? I don’t even know if I care what he does. I’m busy most of the time, so I really don’t think about it all that much.

I appreciated the company of my one close, good friend and her husband at my graduation, but on such a big day, it made me think about just how few friends and family I have near me. I am sure there were plenty of parties with people from my class at Wharton, but I wasn’t close enough with anyone to have been invited. My family was all away, because one of my sisters, who is only 38, had a heart attack, so my folks were rightfully with her. I went out to spend a week with her when she was released from the hospital to help take care of her and the family. I wanted to drive to Connecticut, but Lou was not comfortable with me going that far by myself, so I flew. I think he really missed me, because after a couple of days, he kept calling to ask when I would be back home. I guess when I think about it, he is hardly ever at home by himself. It’s usually me who’s there alone while he’s away on business. He soon became irritated, and questioned why I had to stay so long. He doesn’t really understand what it means to try to recover from something like this. She couldn’t drive, walk long distances, or even go up and down the stairs normally. She had to go step by step on her butt. Plus, now she had to quit smoking. Her heart attack made it a lot easier for me to quit without hesitation. It used to piss her off so much that I would smoke around her, but not around anyone else in the family. She often asked when I was going to drop my “goodie-goodie routine.” My honest reply was, “Never, if I can avoid it.” I like being perceived as the good girl in the family. In life.

February 1991

start runningI had an opportunity to work as a consultant at one of the big firms in New York, but I think one consultant in the family is enough, so my acceptance decision deadline came and went on January 15th along with Saddam Hussein’s deadline to get out of Kuwait. I was home alone when the war started. It was so bizarre  to watch the first attacks on Iraq live on CNN. I recorded it on the VCR so Lou could see it after he returned from one of his trips to PA. The CNN reporter was very professional, but I could tell he was freaking out because he was supposed to have gotten out before the fighting began, and was stuck in the hotel with the bombs going off all around. I imagine it was horrifying to feel that helpless and vulnerable, trying to seek a false sense of shelter under a table.

I don’t know what I’m going to do after graduation. I’m still working part time at the Franklin Mint. I almost get the feeling that they like me too much to hire me permanently, and think I would be better off somewhere else. They had me interview with a manager that I know, but currently don’t work with. He unexpectedly called me into his office a little before 5:00pm for an impromptu interview, which lasted for several hours. At school, we would call this tactic a stress interview. He asked me normal questions at first, and made reference to all I have accomplished as an intern and part time employee, but then got deep into personality issues. He flat out accused me of being too nice, noting that he sees me in the corridors laughing and smiling when I talk to people. He said I would be like a flounder in the ocean and would be eaten up by the sharks there. He even drew a diagram on the chalkboard in his office, illustrating me standing on the bank of a fast moving river, and a raft coming downstream. He then barked out another rapid-fire interrogation question, “How are you going to get on that raft?”  I may have unwittingly smiled when I replied, “I better start running now.”  He seemed satisfied with my answer, but it made me realize that I’d better start running to find another place to work. I have a job there if I want it for a good salary. There’s no fancy title though, unless someone quits. In reality, people quit or get fired there all the time, so I’m not really worried about job titles or promotional opportunities. It’s more a matter of how I want to spend my working hours: happy or stressed.

According to my doctor, I already have stress-related problems. As if my neck pain and headaches are not enough, I keep getting abdominal cramps and diarrhea. They say it is irritable bowel syndrome, and to drink a fiber supplement. I can’t even drink coffee anymore, because as soon as I do, my gut cramps up and I have to run to the bathroom. I manage to get through the days without taking anything for my neck or headaches, but it isn’t easy. I can’t take any medications and still go to school, work and drive, because the muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory, and painkillers they gave me all make me a bit sleepy. Lou says that they make me dopey, too, and that they change my personality in a way he doesn’t like. So, I don’t take them often at home either. I keep trying different meds to see if I can find ones that get rid of the pain, but don’t mess up my head or personality. I’m beginning to think that these meds only work because they mess your head up, and that they don’t really do anything else. I’ve gone for massages a few times, and that really seems to help loosen up the knots that I have in my neck and shoulder muscles. Lou will only rub my muscles for about a minute before he turns the massage into sex. He says he’s just not good at the massage thing. He doesn’t complain when I get a professional massage, though. It’s just my own issue of not wanting to spend the money.

We’re not poor, by any means; we have two relatively new cars, and just about all the rooms in the house have been remodeled and decorated. We installed plush light grey carpet throughout the top floor, have a burgundy Chesterfield leather furniture set in the living room, and have refinished and reupholstered Lou’s mother’s old dining room set.  We also bought a new stereo system, with a CD player, and huge floor speakers. We were a little bit leery about the CD player; Lou wanted to get a record player as well, but the guy in the store convinced us that CD technology was the way to go. We still have a pile of 8-track tapes, as well as our collection of LPs we can’t use, but the cassettes work in the cars, so those aren’t a loss. We only have a handful of CDs so far, but they sound awesome on the stereo.

September 1990

Franklin Mint Museum.  Source: Smallbones Wikipedia

Franklin Mint Museum. Source: Smallbones Wikipedia

I am back to classes, but will continue working part time through the school year. I spent the summer at the Franklin Mint’s internship program in Finance. Most of the MBA interns worked on special research projects in marketing, but I ended up spending most of my time doing real work for the department writing special spreadsheet and quantitative data uploading and downloading processes for budgeting and reporting. I think my summer experience is more practical for the real world. I have more flexibility with my schedule at school this year, so I’ve piled my courses into fewer days so I will continue to work at least two full days at the Mint each week through the school year.

I thought the Investment Banker’s world sounded like high stress, but the Franklin Mint is a really tough corporate environment, and I think it is a good training ground for me from a culture standpoint. The people there are really sharp, but they are all very competitive and almost high school clique-y. It wasn’t my first choice. I really wanted to work at Hewlett-Packard, where the corporate culture is really people oriented. I was so excited when they recruited on campus, because they have a plant about 20 minutes from my house. But they weren’t hiring any interns locally. Playtex was willing to take me back for the summer, but it would have been in the computer operations area. I don’t know why they would think I’d want to go back to that role. I loved working at Playtex, but I have to feel like I’m not wasting my time going to grad school.

This year, the classes will be more challenging, and there is already a focus on finding a job for after graduation. Some people just about had their jobs locked up at the end of their summer internship. I’m missing out entirely on the social life at Wharton. I work in groups a lot, but I don’t have a circle of friends to hang out with when I’m on campus. Even in classes, I pretty much keep to myself.  It seems like everyone else always hangs out with others outside of classes and group projects. I just go to class or to work, then go home and study. It’s my own doing. Most of the time Lou is out of town, so it isn’t like I have to be home to make dinner or anything. I wasn’t like this at SCCC or Stony Brook, and I don’t have a clue why I am now. Maybe it would be different if we lived on campus as we did at Duke.

Lou’s done so much with his MBA and is his one-man shop is doing well. The “big eight” firms bring in consulting clients usually from projects that come out of their accounting and audit work. So I don’t really see where they can really justify calling themselves independent auditors, accountants, or consultants. At least Lou is not motivated to create work for other divisions of a big organization. He still does a lot of presentations and speaking engagements for APICS and other groups, and gets word of mouth recommendations for his project contracts. He’s a great speaker, and is really good at what he does.

January 1990

"Penn Wharton" by Logo Style Guide. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Penn_Wharton.svg#mediaviewer/File:Penn_Wharton.svg

“Penn Wharton” by Logo Style Guide. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Penn_Wharton.svg#mediaviewer/File:Penn_Wharton.svg

School’s going great, and I’m doing really well in my classes. I’m one of the few long distance commuters, and one of a handful of married people, so I don’t get at all involved in the social life on or off campus. Off campus in West Philly is pretty scary after dark, so I’m in and out of there as quickly as possible. I can’t say I’ve made any real friends here yet, and I’m beginning to wonder if I ever will. The only student who ever calls me at home is looking for help on Economics homework. All the advanced mathematics classes I had to take at SUNY have made much of the program easy for me. There is a lot of quantitative analysis required, so I guess this computer engineering geek has an advantage over the prep school kids. If I could learn assembly language and advanced mathematics, I can certainly dissect and interpret a balance sheet and income statement and do the differential equations for economics in my sleep.

I’m home alone most of the time, and that’s really fine with me because I can just concentrate on my schoolwork. When Lou’s there, I tend to spend time doing things with him instead, and I just don’t get as much done. I help him out by editing his letters, reports and presentations, since he doesn’t have any staff or co-workers in his one-man consulting business. I go to bed when he does rather than stay up late studying. I’d read in bed, but it’s kind of hard to focus over the television, and to work with just one arm. My other arm is usually tied up because Louie likes his “pets.” I have totally spoiled him over the years by scratching and rubbing his head while we’re relaxing together. Now when we lay down to watch TV on the couch, he’ll put his head in my lap and nuzzle it until I start scratching. Even when he’s driving, he’ll lean over toward me, and nudge for “pets.” I think all the blood flow to his head is going to help keep his hair nice and thick. It is starting to get grey, but in an attractive and distinctive salt and pepper kind of way. He’s afraid he’s going to turn all grey and start balding like his father.

Since he is Louis William Joy, III he’s afraid of following in his father’s footsteps in a lot of ways. He doesn’t drink much because he is scared to death of becoming an alcoholic like he believes his father is. He always talks about feeling like he carries a curse from his father, but never gets very specific about exactly what that means to him. I usually just compliment him on his own self-discipline that has enabled him to achieve so much in life. His business is doing great, he’s still going up north to Pennsylvania every week, and his daily consulting rate is far higher than the salary from any of his previous jobs. He can work fewer days and make more money. I’m really proud of what he’s accomplished.

I really could use some “pets” or at least a neck rub sometimes. My neck pain and headaches are still a big problem. I’ve got all kinds of medications, and have tried just about every kind of physical therapy imaginable, but nothing seems to help, and what’s worse I now get migraine headaches as well. I’m still keeping up in school because there is no way I’m going to let my head and neck screw this up for me. Harrah’s isn’t the least interested in helping out with the medical expenses either, so I’m on my own unless we sue. I just need to stay focused on what is most important right now.

The focus at school is already shifting to finding summer internships. Recruiters come from companies all over the country, and you have to compete to get an interview slot. My choices are narrowed down to jobs within commuting distance of Wilmington, Delaware, so that makes it different for me from the majority to students who will go to wherever the best position is.

September 1989

hp12cLife changed gears quickly. I was in my office at work when I got a call from Wharton Admissions asking if I still wanted to attend. I’m not sure, but I got the impression there was an international student from China who couldn’t attend this year because they were in legal trouble from the Tiananmen Square incident. I wonder if I wasn’t right there at my desk to get the phone call at that moment if they would have moved on to the next person on the waiting list. There were only three weeks before school started, so I had to give my “yes” answer right then on the phone. I was floating on air for those three weeks. The reality of losing my income and insurance benefits on top of paying for school didn’t set in for a while. Louie is really excited for me too, though, and we will get by just fine. He has steady consulting work, and I can get insurance through COBRA, and a student loan to pay for school.

Lou joined me to meet with someone in the financial aid office, but there really isn’t any merit based financial aid available; he got into a heated discussion about how unfair and discriminatory it is that it seems only minority groups have financial aid available. He went on to complain that he never got aid either because he was a white male. I understand his point, although I could have done without him getting on the reverse discrimination soapbox at my new school.

They gave me a party at work, and an HP 12-C calculator as a going away present. I am really going to miss everyone at Playtex. My major concentration is going to be in Finance. Wharton is just about always the top ranked Finance MBA program. So far, the classes are pretty straightforward, and I expect to do well. I’m not the least bit nervous about the course work. I went through the face book with the pictures and little biography of the 750 or so students in my class. I could count on my two hands the number of students that went to undergraduate state schools. The majority of students had bachelor’s degrees from top private and Ivy League level schools. When people describe what their pre-Wharton jobs were, it seems like everyone has already been super successful in business, including several Wall Street investment bankers. Hopefully this is a good sign that I am destined for a great job after graduation. It is a little intimidating though, and my GED, AAS, BS from SUNY, and my job as Playtex Help Desk Manager doesn’t seem to stack up in comparison. At least my grades will be competitive; I have absolutely no doubt about that.

July 1989

AtlanticCityWe went to Atlantic City for our 8th anniversary last month, and stayed at Harrah’s. We got a nice room, played black jack, had dinner, and then went to watch a show. It was all good until we were escorted to our seats in the theater; I was holding onto a railing, walking up the stairs, and suddenly my head was hit from above. There was a concrete overhand along the wall above the staircase, and I was safely walking up the steps below it, and then at one point I no longer fit underneath, and unknowingly stepped right up into it. Man that hurt like hell. I just stood there for a while trying to recover, then the usher sat us. Lou didn’t like the table, which was far back, even though there were plenty of open tables closer and toward the center. So the usher moved us to better seats. My head was killing me, and I still had tears, so I told Lou I needed to get some Tylenol or something. I went to the usher again and asked where I could get something for my headache. He had me wait by the entrance to be escorted to the hotel’s medical station. They looked me over for signs of a concussion and filled out a report before they would give me any Tylenol. I returned to the theater and stayed for the show, but for some reason I couldn’t stop crying throughout the whole thing. Not blubbering or anything like that, just silent tears kept dripping down my face. I felt like a child. The next day, my head was throbbing, and I really didn’t want to drive home, so we tried to get the room for another night. They said they were booked up, and couldn’t do anything for us. I’m sure they had rooms put aside for entertaining high rollers and those who have more money than brains to stop gambling. But there was no room for us, despite the facts that I was hurt and we were willing to pay. And there was no apology for the incident either. We had a lengthy argument with a manager in the lobby and ended up having to drive home after all. A couple days later, my neck got really stiff, and the headaches got worse. Now I have a stupid neck brace collar, and have to go to physical therapy.

I recently took a trip to Florida for work, which was fun. I’m working on setting up personal computer systems for the field sales organizations, and Orlando is my pilot site. I didn’t realize just how hot it would be in the summer though. I went to Disney by myself, which I thought might be awkward, but turned out to be fine, except that I got really burned. I couldn’t go on anything but the kiddy rides though, because of my neck injury.

Once again, Wharton didn’t accept me, but did put me on their waiting list, and now have me on their summer waiting list. It’s like when I really wanted something and my parents said, “we’ll see.” I knew that meant more likely an eventual “no” than a “yes” but it was better than outright rejection. My fingers are crossed for delayed gratification.

January 1989

SerenityPrayerTime flies. I’m reapplying to Wharton, with another year’s management experience and a couple more recommendations from higher-level managers at work under my belt. Fingers crossed that I’ll get in this time. I love working at Playtex, and the people I’m with, but I just know that I can achieve so much more with an MBA.

Lou has his own consulting business now. He got a call from one of his prior clients who wanted to know if he would come to work for them full time. He was really gun shy from his last experience, so he agreed to work on a contract basis for a while, and it’s worked out well. We incorporated his business as Manufacturing Excellence, Inc. I say he should tell people he works for “Me Inc.” He prefers to call it “M-E-I.” I still think “Me” is more appropriate and accurate. He’s getting steady business so far, and we are covered with health care benefits from my job, so we’re in good shape. The only investments we’ve had to make for his company are for an accountant to set up the corporation, and in a computer and printer. We got a Mac Plus, which he likes because it is easy to use and is great at graphics for presentations. We’ve fixed up his office, so it looks really nice, with striped wallpaper and wood wainscoting on the walls, book cases, some artwork, and we had all of his diplomas and certifications professionally framed, as well as prints of both the Serenity Prayer and Desiderata. He covered the top of his old metal desk with gorgeous off-white 12” marble tiles, and painted the rest. Pretty cool looking.

August 1988

rosetrellisThings looked so bright at the beginning of the year. But then, I didn’t get into Wharton, and Lou got fired from his job. Maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t get accepted. I think Lou tried to change too much too quickly, and he upset too many of the wrong people. The worst part of all this is that they fired him over the telephone while he was in New York with his father who was going into surgery for a laryngectomy because of throat cancer. Lou had a feeling the axe was going to fall, so before he left work the last time, he brought home all the files that he thought were important to him that he’d never see again. He was certain this one guy in particular was working hard to get rid of him, and that he was manipulating the facts to make Lou look bad to the owner. I think if Lou had been more patient and made more compromises along the way it would have been better for everyone involved. Now the people who supported him are left hanging on their own.

Lou’s dad had come to our house to visit for a while to try to decide what he wanted to do. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to have the surgery or not. He spent most of his time here working in the garden. We have a great garden area in the back yard. There’s a huge lattice fence with beautiful climbing roses that goes up to about 8 feet tall. Lou put it up to block the view of our neighbor’s backyard. We do all the plantings together in the spring, and then Lou keeps it nice. He’s a much better gardener than I am. I’m good at figuring out what to buy and where to put it, but he’s good at the weeding and maintenance. The one time I tried to plant my own little garden area, he thought they were weeds and pulled them all out. Oops. Anyway they spent a lot of time out there together. Bottom line, he decided to have the surgery. Lou went to the VA hospital to see his dad, and after he went in for the operation, Lou called into the office and got fired over the phone. Lou left before his dad got out of the O/R. I know he was upset, but I wouldn’t have been able to leave if it were my father. I probably should have gone with him, even though he didn’t really want me to. Lou told me that his father walked him around the hospital to show him where he had stayed for a while earlier on, which turned out to be a tour of the mental health ward, where everyone knew him. He had told us that he was there previously because of his throat cancer, but hadn’t mentioned anything else. I imagine he was treated for depression. I’m glad he got help.

I know that Lou was depressed himself after being fired. All he did was sit around the house playing solitaire; game after game, after game. To add insult to injury, the company had only offered him two weeks’ severance pay. He was threatening to sue, but they insisted he was an employee at will, and they had the right to terminate his employment for any reason or no reason at all. Lou contacted a lawyer who pretty much said he had no case. I called the owner of the company myself to make a personal appeal. I explained how devastated Lou was, and that he had put his heart and soul into his job and the employees. Lou now felt that they never intended to keep him on, and that they had just been using him for his ideas short term, but didn’t want him to ultimately have any real management authority. Lou felt he was deceived and defrauded. The owner said that certainly wasn’t the case, and was sorry that he felt that way, but that Lou just wasn’t a good fit with the management team. I explained that my experience has been that someone at Lou’s level should be given at least six months’ severance pay. I couldn’t believe it when he agreed to those terms. Lou thinks it is because the owner feels guilty and that he knows they were wrong, and is afraid of a lawsuit. Personally, I think my conversation was effective and the owner had empathy, and most likely just didn’t want to deal with the topic anymore. Whatever the reason, it is good to have an income while he looks for another job.

I’ve been using the word processor at my office to type up application letters for him, which is a lot easier than the typewriter we have at home. I get the Wall Street Journal from the VP’s office here and cut out all the manufacturing management classified ads for him to review and approve for me to send out a letter and resume. My managers are afraid I will have to leave soon because Lou will get a job out of state or something. So far no interviews, but we keep sending out resumes.

I already have a lot of experience using the word processor and the PC and plotter at work from when Lou became President of the South Jersey APICS Chapter. I agreed to be VP of Publicity, which meant I had to do the monthly newsletter. I typed it, did artwork, got it printed, and did all the folding, labeling, and mailing. I spent a lot of late nights working on it, but I must say that the newsletter was looking mighty fine with my touch. I absolutely despise going to the meetings and conferences, though. BORING.  But as an officer, I have to attend, and have also taken several of the certification exams. At least I have something new to put on my own resume.

March 1988

insteadimarriedlouWork’s good. I’m a manager now of the help desk in computer operations. Playtex has gone through so many cutbacks and reorganizations that it’s amazing I’m still there. I got a nice raise with my promotion. Most of the increase came because one of the people who would be working for me had been there a long time and made a lot more money than I did. So they bumped my pay to be more than his. We’ve taken on a lot more responsibility in our group, since they laid off other people. I like our little group though, and we work well as a team. Every day, we post messages to all the computers in the company about system issues and other technical support information. One day, I didn’t have anything to report, so instead, I put up a quote that said, “Blessed are they who have nothing to say, and who cannot be persuaded to say it.” Ever since, I’ve posted a new “Thought for the Day” as the first item on the list of bulletins. If we don’t update it first thing in the morning, people start calling asking for it. It is fun to look for new quotes to put up, and it’s nice knowing that people look forward to it.

I decided that I want to go to graduate school for my MBA. I took the GMAT and did well, and applied to Wharton at University of Pennsylvania. I haven’t applied anywhere else. I think this is the best school, and it’s local, so it is among the few options available for me. I have honors level grades from my undergraduate years, good experience, and good recommendations, so hopefully I’ll get in. I think my essay was pretty good also. It focused on what we’ve been able to achieve in our lives, starting from basically nothing. My personal essay opened with, “My mother always thought I’d marry rich. Instead, I married Lou.”

We have come a long way. He’s now working for one of his old consulting clients up in Amish country as Operations Manager. Coopers & Lybrand wasn’t thrilled when he created a job for himself with the client, but I think it was a win-win-win all around for everyone. He was getting frustrated at Coopers anyway, and he would probably have left soon for somewhere. Now he has all the manufacturing and distribution organization working under him, and he reports to the owner of the company, who is a Mennonite. They say a prayer even before meetings. That’s quite a change. I’m glad he’s not consulting and traveling to hotels anymore. There are just horses and buggies and plain clothed religious people where he works now. So there shouldn’t be any more of those work related sexual issues.

Things were getting a little too freaky while he was consulting. We kept getting hang up phone calls at night. One time, Lou decided to do the star 69 thing on the phone to return the last call. When the person answered, Lou asked, “Who is this?” The guy on the other end said, “Who the fuck are you?” and he hung up. Then the guy called us back again, and said, “I know who you are and where you live, mother fucker. I’m gonna cut out your heart and suck your blood.”  Lou called the police, and through the phone company they identified who it was and the police filed “terroristic threatening” charges on some guy Lou never heard of in Wilmington. The police told Lou that the guy claimed a neighbor of ours had him calling to bother Lou because of some issue with work. Lou thinks that it’s related to the hospital engagement where someone who happens to live in our neighborhood lost his job because of the project Lou was on. It’s all too weird. Lou’s upset because nothing is really happening with the case. The police don’t seem to be following up with it. They ask if there have been any more phone calls or contact, and there hasn’t, so that seems to be it as far as they are concerned. I hope that’s it.

August 1987

Green Room Hotel DuPont Wilmington, DE

Green Room Hotel DuPont Wilmington, DE

I don’t know what he expects me to say or think or do. Lou came home all paranoid and in a panic wanting to know whether or not it was possible and legal for someone to tape phone calls and use it against you, and if you could tell when a conversation was being recorded. I said that I had no idea, and asked why he was worried about it.

He explained that this woman who works at the local hospital where he was consulting had been really flirting with him a lot, and that they chatted on the phone at work during the day and it got to be really dirty sexy talk. And now he was worried that she was setting him up for some kind of trap. He thought there was some sort of conspiracy going on to get him fired from the hospital job because he was going to uncover some real problems. I looked at his eyes, and could tell he wasn’t right, and asked if he was high. He then says that he’d just been smoking pot with her in the car in a parking lot, and that they had kissed. I don’t know what piece of information pissed me off more: the kissing or the smoking in our Benz.

From there, it just went from bad to worse. Next, as part of his conspiracy theory evidence trail, he admitted to lying to me about going to dinner with clients at the Hotel DuPont, and that he had just gone with this woman. I started to cry, and he didn’t get why. The Green Room at the Hotel DuPont is the only really fine restaurant we have ever gone to. We got all dressed up and went for our last anniversary, and I thought it was so special and romantic. How could he take her there? I remember when he came home that night all horny; I guess she didn’t put out for him after the expensive dinner, so he came to me for relief. He really didn’t understand why I was hurt. Instead, he got mad at me because I got upset and was not helping him with his problem at work. I told him I didn’t see where he had anything to worry about as long as the conversation was both ways, not just him talking to her. He said she was a just a cock tease and he was going to stay away from her from now on. I assume that means she didn’t put out after the kiss either.

I asked him if there was anything else I should know about, and he told me that sometimes on his way to his client in Pennsylvania, he stops at a place for a hand job, but that it was no big deal and didn’t mean anything. I wish I didn’t ask. I know he didn’t tell me everything there was to tell, and perhaps that is just as well. He still didn’t understand why I was upset. After all, he came to me for help.

Lou fell asleep. I cleaned the house. I think when I clean and I vent to myself. I obsess. I have a sock that I keep in my drawer. It is a single woman’s sock that isn’t mine. It came home from Pennsylvania mixed in with his suitcase laundry quite a long time ago. He stays at a nice hotel that has a nightclub that I know is a big pickup joint. I heard rumors are that there was prostitution too. He’s up there all the time, and knows everyone, and because he’s such a regular guest, they give him the honeymoon suite whenever it is available. I am so damn angry but there’s nothing I can say. I scrub until my fingers cramp up. My house is very clean and I feel a little better when I am done.

January 1987

1987 Mercedes Benz 190E - ours was powder blue

1987 Mercedes Benz 190E – ours was powder blue

We bought our first new car, and it’s a Mercedes Benz. Actually it is a “Baby Benz” 190E. We spent New Year’s Eve picking up the car and then sitting in it in the garage. We sat in the front seats, each taking turns on the driver’s side and the passenger’s side then we sat in the back seats, where there is little leg room. But it is nice. It will be a challenge to keep it clean, since it has a cream colored interior. Not leather, but it looks like it. Lou was appalled that the car didn’t come with floor mats, but managed to get them included at the end. It was kind of embarrassing to be fiercely arguing over something trivial like that at the dealership, but he had a point. The financing wasn’t too difficult this time, since we are established now with the mortgage. It’s funny how having debt makes it easier to get deeper into debt. We’ve got Lou’s student loans, the mortgage, and now this car payment, but we’re ok now with both of us working full time. Lou’s going to use the car for his business travel. It’s more impressive for his clients to see him in a Mercedes than the Olds. The only pain for me is that the radio doesn’t work in my car, and I have an hour commute each way.

We’re getting stuff done on the house, and it’s coming along nicely. The first thing to go was the blue and silver metallic wallpaper in the bathroom. It’s been non-stop work around the house, but it is good to work together on the projects. We figure that if we can hang wallpaper together without killing each other we’re doing something right in this marriage. He’s such a perfectionist when it comes to the work in the house that he won’t let me do anything that shows, not even a first coat of paint. I’m more like an assistant than anything else because he knows what he’s doing and I don’t. Except when it’s time to clean up. That’s always my job. I do keep the place clean though.

April 1986

First House in Christiana Delaware - Just off I-95

First House in Christiana Delaware – Just off I-95

We bought a house. It is awesome. Nothing big, and it needs a lot of work, but I love it. I got a job at Playtex in Dover, Delaware. Lou’s in a new job too, working at Coopers and Lybrand out of Philadelphia. Since Dover is far enough away from South Jersey, Playtex paid for our relocation expenses, which included temporary living for me in a hotel as well as movers and such. We had been having problems at our apartment that they weren’t fixing, so Lou withheld rent. I went to renter’s court to fight our case, and we actually won, so the last few months of rent were free, which went right to the down payment on this house. We had looked at a bunch of houses with a realtor, and then Louie and I went out to dinner at Howard Johnson’s in Wilmington, and I found a classified ad “for sale by owner” listing in Christiana that sounded perfect. Lou called, and we went right over to see it. It was already dark outside, but as soon as we drove up the street, and I saw the house at the top of the hill with the lights on, I got goose bumps and told Lou that this was definitely it. It’s a four bedroom bi-level house, with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, dining room and living room on the top floor, and the lower level has a huge family room, a half bath, and a bedroom, as well as a laundry room and access to the attached garage. There’s a pretty big yard, with a two-level deck, and an outdoor hot tub built into the lower deck. The colors in the house are really 70’s. There’s bright orange carpet in the living room, and brown shag downstairs. The kitchen has wallpaper with birds and orange stripes, and yellow linoleum floors, and the bathroom has metallic blue wallpaper. We will have plenty of work ahead, but with all of Lou’s handyman experience, we will be able to do it no problem. We don’t have furniture to fill the place yet, but that will actually make it easier to do the remodeling. The upstairs living room and dining room are empty, but we are using the family room downstairs, and the master bedroom. Lou has his desk in one of the other bedrooms that we will make into an office at some point.

I like my job at Playtex. It was a tough start, since they use COBOL, and I overstated my knowledge of COBOL. But I was living in a local hotel on my own anyway, so I had a lot of time to put into work and stayed late just about every night to get my projects done. Nobody figured out I didn’t have the language experience, they just saw me working hard. I have the language down now, thanks to a couple books. The actual biggest skill is in knowing how to write and test programs in general, the language itself isn’t such a big deal. That’s what I told them anyway when I interviewed, and I think it’s true. I didn’t lie. I said COBOL wasn’t my strongest language. I don’t like to lie at all, but when I do, I usually say something that is true, even though I know it is misleading. I worry that if I lie about something, I’ll have some sort of karma retaliation. If you call in sick when you’re not, then you will get sick; that type of thing. If I’m being deceitful, then I prefer to avoid any conversation about the topic all together. So far, that’s worked the best in life. I guess it would be better if I was up front and honest about everything though. Yeah right.

On the night of April Fool’s Day, I was bored in my hotel room, and wrote a really long letter to Alan. I made up this story about how I was drinking in the bar by myself and ended up having way too much, and started hanging out with a few guys, and took them back to my hotel room for sex. At the end of the letter, I told him it was just an April Fool’s joke, which it was. I thought it was pretty funny, because he probably was freaking out thinking I had finally really lost it. If I sent that same letter to Lou he probably would have been jerking off thinking I had really done it. Lou is always talking about stuff like that when we’re in bed, and wanting me to get into the fantasy of it with him. I just kind of “mm-hmm” back, but it really doesn’t turn me on in the least bit. He likes porn star type sex, and keeps introducing me to people saying, “this is my wife, Jo Joy… doesn’t that sound like she’s a porn star or a stripper?”  I smile and I laugh. I’m tired of it though.

Lou has been doing a lot of travel for Coopers and Lybrand. He goes to a company up north in Pennsylvania every week, coming home only on the weekends. I think he is a lot happier there than he was at Price Waterhouse. He was gone so much of the time that I had to do all of the legwork in buying this house on my own. I was so nervous about getting approval on the mortgage. The real hurdle was that we were both changing jobs at the same time, and neither one of us had a good long-term employment history to point to. I’m proud that I was able to get it all done though.

I finally met Lou’s dad. He called one night while we were still living in Jersey. Lou was out of town. I don’t know if his father had been drinking or not, but he was obviously very depressed. It sounded like he was basically calling to say goodbye forever. I talked to him on the phone for a really long time, and arranged for him to call back again and see if we could set up a time to meet. I think he’s living out of his car. Since he got fired with the rest of the striking PATCO air traffic controllers, he hasn’t had any steady work, and no place to stay. He owes Lou’s mom so much money he just signed over the house to her. After I got off the phone with him, I called the suicide prevention hotline to ask for some advice on what I should do or say to help him. They basically said that what I did was good, to let him know that there are people who care and to give him something to look forward to.  He called back when he was supposed to, and talked to Lou for quite a while on the phone. We drove to Long Island to meet him, and had dinner at the local pizza place near where Lou grew up. We got there first, and while we were waiting, the bartender recognized Lou and asked him about his father, and whether or not he was back from Saudi Arabia. Lou just said, “yeah,” and excused himself. His father never went there, and we have no idea what kind of story he had been telling around town. Louie says his father is a chronic liar, and will just make stuff up like that. His dad showed up, and we talked for a long time, but it was all about trivial stuff. He smoked Camel cigarettes pretty much non-stop. Lou says that’s how it always was. His dad would buy himself a case of beer and sit outside and just drink and smoke all night long. His mom smoked all the time also, but inside the house, usually in the kitchen. Lou has never smoked, but his sister does. He still has no clue that I smoke sometimes when he’s not around. I don’t even know if he’d care one way or the other, but I’d rather not find out.

His mom tells the story about the day “Louis” was born on Christmas in1957, and Lou’s dad was hammered. She left him when Lou was little, but they soon got back together. There were a lot of stories about drunken fights and threats. She treated her Louis like gold though. He was always dressed perfectly, in matching sweaters and socks. Quite the little man. Quite the Momma’s Boy, actually, until his father made her stop sometime in middle school to keep him from becoming a total dork. She idolized her son, and would ask his advice, and take it, even when he was little. One of her favorite stories was her asking Louis what greeting card she should buy, and he gave an answer, and some lady said, “And the children shall lead us.”  I’ve heard that story so many times. She goes on and on about how wise he was beyond his years. I think the being born on Christmas Day has a big impact on how she saw her kid. Lucky for her she never found his stash of porn hidden in his room. She’s very religious and would have freaked at that. From what she tells me, the last time she had sex was the night that his sister was conceived, which was about 20 years ago. Right now is the first time since I’ve known Lou that he’s actually talking to everyone in his immediate family. His mother actually likes me now. The turning point came when she had surgery for cancer, and I went on my own to be with her in the hospital and at home. I didn’t do it to make her like me, but in her drug induced fog, she thanked me for caring for her, and said she was so wrong about me, and that I was an angel.